US President Donald Trump’s threat to enact the Insurrection Act of 1807 was met with strong political rebuke from the respective governors and defiance and retaliation by protesters in the streets.
George Floyd, a 46-year old Minneapolis resident, was arrested after a store employee called the police to investigate the receipt of counterfeit money. Mr Floyd subsequently died while being detained by the arresting police officers. Former police officer Derek Chauvin, dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, even after Floyd showed no signs of life. Only after public outcry, Chauvin was arrested four days later and charged by state prosecutors with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder, which was later increased to second-degree. The three other officers who were also at the scene, Thomas Lane, Alexander Keung, and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Nationwide protests sparked by people incensed over the death of another black man have morphed into violent clashes with the police and National Guard. There is growing concern from New York City residents over a potential civil war between the military and New Yorkers if the National Guard is deployed to quell the protests.
“The military and the president are supposed to protect and defend the rights of its citizens,” said Rebeca Rivera, a 25-year-old Jamaica resident. “Nothing has been done to end police brutality. Nothing has been done to end systematic racism. Instead of sending in the military, [Trump] should be changing the system that was set to oppress black people.”
Underestimating the problem
Rivera echoed the sentiments of many fearful residents that the deployment may lead to civil war.
“Trump wants people to fear him because he holds a position of power and he is white. He is mad we are fighting back. There has been no change [and] to bring in the military when people have had enough is crazy,” exclaimed Rivera.
To curtail looting and destruction of property, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, effective June 2 to 7. Cuomo has also been critical of the NYPD and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s slow response to the widespread anarchy.
“[The NYPD] is the largest police department in the United States of America,” said Cuomo. “Use 38,000 people and protect property. The mayor underestimates the scope of the problem.”
32-year-old Darnel Richards, however, vehemently believes that all political leaders are responsible for the riots.
“We began protesting peacefully,” said Richards. “But after a while what did they expect if [there was] no change? Trump, the governors, mayors, his supporters, and the police are all in the wrong. Looting is wrong, but people are tired of being oppressed. They were going to retaliate eventually.”
Some residents believe that the looting will not stop until there are equal consequences for all the officers that were involved in Mr Floyd’s arrest.
“When no one listens, what are we left to do?” asked 23-year-old Martell Perry. “It seems like the only way for black people to be heard in this country is to make noise. Looting is wrong and it will give the media a reason to misrepresent why we are protesting. We have to keep the same energy and frustration we use to loot and redirect it in a peaceful, but progressive way. Police brutality, the lack of justice, and reform is the source of our pain. We won’t stop until there is change.”