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COVID-19 and the protests over the death of George Floyd: will our administration yield to democratic rejection of its threats, or will fascism take over?

2020-06-03

picture by Open Clip Art Vectors courtesy of pixabay.com

The US and the world have seen huge protests since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.  Over 100 cities in the US have been convulsed by daily protest and nightly rioting.  Destruction of property, burning of vehicles, and looting has occurred in parallel with the peaceful protests.  Several people have been shot; in one case, a business owner was shot by police.  Policemen have suffered injuries, and one was run over by a car (he suffered a broken pelvis.)  Two security agents were shot in Oakland (one was killed) in a drive-by incident.

Police and National Guardsmen have reacted to protests with brutality in numerous cases.  They have shot protesters with pepper balls, rubber bullets, tear gas, and a variety of chemical agents– even peaceful (but loud) protesters have been attacked.  Protesters have seen for themselves that police are as brutal as they have been portrayed in the news media.  Many protesters have called for defunding the police forces.

Some police have responded with sympathy to protesters.  In these cases, the protests have been entirely peaceful in response.  Too many policemen have retreated behind shields and body armor.  Too  many journalists have been attacked without reason.  There is no excuse for brutal reactions to peaceful protest.  There is no excuse for police ignoring looters to concentrate on corralling protesters.

The president has blamed “antifa” for the protests and property destruction, but the FBI has said they have not seen the involvement of known antifa members.  Instead, right wing extremists have appeared, some carrying assault rifles, and have attacked protesters.  One case was reported in which protesters were attacked by a mob wielding baseball bats.  The right wing has reacted to protests with their own form of violence and incitement, in some cases even pretending to be “antifa”.  This has not been noticed by the president, who would be egging them on if he knew.

What is not yet known is how many protesters have been infected by SARS-COV-2.  A spike in cases of COVID-19 over the next weeks could be caused by the huge gatherings of protesters, or it could easily be due to a lack of precautions taken by many people who are now going out in public, eating at restaurants, partying at the beach, or going to bars.  We will not know for a couple of weeks how many new cases will be seen.

The protesters have come out in spite of the risks, and they are saying that they are fully aware of the dangers.  In contrast, people who are going to bars and restaurants are minimizing the risks.  We will not know, unless we ask, who is taking the bigger risk.  Minority groups, especially African- and Caribbean-Americans, are being crushed between two deadly forces: the pandemic on one hand, and racism on the other.  They are out in the street, protesting, because they feel they have nothing left to lose.  What do those who think the pandemic is over have to lose, and why do they think the danger is over?

Police and the Commander in Chief have reacted to people exercising their First Amendment rights with brutality and calls for military intervention– even shooting.  The US is deeply destabilized.  By all rights, the elections in November should result in rejection of the current administration’s bid to continue their hegemony.  Americans have reason to fear that their government will not respond to democratic votes and voices, but rather react with fascism and authoritarian control.  Only time will tell.

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