George Floyd protests: Is America at a turning point?


The harrowing death of an African American at the hands of a white police officer has provoked waves of protests against racism and police brutality. The Straits Times US bureau looks at whether the outrage will prove to be a turning point for the country.

America at point of inflection

Tens of thousands participate in a silent protest march organised by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County in Seattle, Washington, US, on June 12, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

The United States has been through paroxysms before, often set off by killings of African Americans by the police, but there is every indication that the current crisis triggered by the widely seen death of Mr George Floyd at the hands of the police is different, and in several aspects.

After more than two weeks of protests across the country, the outrage, unlike before, is seeing results as several states and city authorities have moved to, if not reform their police forces, at least update police rules of engagement.

President Donald Trump, while set on being "tough" on protesters, in a Fox News interview aired on Friday said the controversial chokehold used by some police departments to restrain suspects should "generally" be banned, but may still be needed in dangerous situations.


Global frustration with injustice boils over after George Floyd's death

Protesters outside the Minneapolis Police and Fire Union offices on Friday. As "Black Lives Matter" graffiti and banners appear around the world, and monuments glorifying colonial and Confederate figures are destroyed, institutions in Britain and Ame

Protesters outside the Minneapolis Police and Fire Union offices on Friday. As "Black Lives Matter" graffiti and banners appear around the world, and monuments glorifying colonial and Confederate figures are destroyed, institutions in Britain and America are debating whether to sever their links with colonial or slavery-era names. PHOTO: AFP

Before his death on May 25, as he lay handcuffed face down on a Minneapolis street with a Caucasian police officer's knee on his neck, Mr George Floyd was just another African American man.

Yet his fate now resonates around the world.

Yesterday, thousands marched in Australia. In Taipei, a few hundred gathered in a park to call attention to the rights of indigenous people.


The militarisation of US police forces


Californian police in riot gear on an armoured vehicle during unrest across the US following the death of Mr George Floyd last month. PHOTO: REUTERS

In the wake of Mr George Floyd's death, Americans were taken aback by armour-plated vehicles designed to withstand landmines rolling down the main streets of their cities, as police officers decked out in full riot gear kept an eye on, and sometimes clashed with, protesters.


The scenes once again shone a spotlight on how much civilian cops in the US are becoming like the military, from equipment to tactics to culture.

This militarisation has its roots in the 1990s, taking off in earnest when the Clinton administration's 1033 programme started allowing civilian police to get surplus military equipment for almost free.


Asian American's role in George Floyd's killing puts ties among minorities in focus

The sight of Tou Thao, a Hmong American, backing the white police officer who killed Mr George Floyd has led to soul-searching among Asian Americans. PHOTO: DARNELLA FRAZIER / FACEBOOK

As Derek Chauvin knelt on Mr George Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, Chauvin's colleague Tou Thao stood watch and held off onlookers who were pleading for it to stop.

Tou Thao is Hmong American. And the image of an American of Asian descent backing a white police officer charged with the murder of an unarmed black man has prompted much soul-searching among Asian Americans.

Ms Bo Thao-Urabe, founder and network director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, said: "Many debated whether it matters that Tou Thao is Asian American, Hmong American. I say it does".


Global press urges Trump to condemn attacks on journalists

Protesters rally against racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Richmond, Virginia, US, on June 13, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

News publishers from around the world are urging US President Donald Trump to show support for a free press and condemn the attacks on journalists covering protests triggered by the death of Mr George Floyd in police custody.

In a joint letter on Friday, members of the World Association of News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) demanded thorough investigations into more than 400 attacks on media professionals related to the coverage of the protests against police brutality and in support of social justice following Mr Floyd's death on May 25.

The attacks were reported to the US Press Freedom Tracker, a non-partisan online resource that documents press freedom violations in the United States.