TW: This article contains details of police brutality and sexual assault.
By Julie Ngalle
On the 5th of May, footage of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder broke the internet, 74 days after the crime took place. General outrage all around the world made it possible for the men who killed him to be arrested, something that would not have happened without social media. As many have said, these men did not get arrested because the police saw the video, they got arrested because WE saw it.
Just 20 days later, a new video broke the internet. In it, George Floyd, an African-American man, is killed by a policeman kneeling on his neck for over 7 minutes. The first one made me tear up, but this one made me sick to my stomach. I dream of the day when these videos are not filmed, shared and viewed by the entire world. I dream of the day when our tweets and Instagram posts are not what gets us justice, when we can finally count on the institutions put in place to do so.
But until this day comes, we cannot stay silent for another minute. These men were innocent, and even if they had not been, this is what the law is here for. We cannot accept to see one more person, whose privilege and prejudice against certain groups dictate their actions, decide to take another’s life. We cannot accept that any more fates are determined by one’s skin colour. We can not let racism and white supremacism continue to kill innocent men and women.
In France, as these tragedies accumulate, I have heard or read many times “this is America’s problem”, “police brutality and racism do not exist in France anymore”, “there is nothing we can do about this”, or the most ironic one: “manifesting and violence is not going to bring George Floyd back or fix any problems.” For one, we can all do something about it. Protest, fighting back and standing our ground can most definitely pressure a government. France being a country that is internationally recognised as one that strikes, overthrows political regimes and decapitates oppressive kings, we know better than anyone that people power is one of the strongest forms of power.
Secondly, two names come to mind: Adama Traoré and Théodore Luhaka. These two now-famous names are linked to two of the most controversial and publicised cases of police brutality in France. The former died following a police altercation. Hours before his death, Traoré started showing signs of distress but nothing was done. When he was immobilised, he told the police he could not breathe, but nothing was done. During the car ride to the police station, Traoré fainted and soiled himself, but again, nothing was done. When help was finally called, he was found in handcuffs, head facing the floor and unconscious. He was then pronounced dead at the scene. The latter, Théodore Luhaka, was beat up and raped. The young man suffered from a “10 cm wound to his anal canal and sphincter muscle” according to medical reports, caused by the insertion of a telescopic stick. As this took place, some of the policemen photographed him in humiliating positions on Snapchat, shouted racist insults whilst also illegally using tear gas to push aside witnesses.
Both these affairs share similarities. They both started off as a simple identity check – that many in France point out are taken out more regularly in specific neighbourhoods – and both men involved resisted their arrest. In both cases, the justice system also made a lot of excuses for the policemen’s behaviour, notably arguing that the violence of both victims could have explained such treatment. Today, one has lost his life, and the other suffers from trauma and irreversible physical damage. Still, their truth and innocence are questioned. And these are just the cases of police brutality in France that we know of, with many more occurring without ever attracting media attention. This is not just “America’s problem”.
This concerns all of us. Whether you are African, North or South American, European, Asian, we must all unite. Yes all lives matter, but in this case, black lives matter most. Not because they are superior, or should be, but because they are one of the most oppressed communities worldwide and suffer from some of the biggest injustices everywhere. Police brutality is a problem for all of us. Whether you have been a victim of it, are scared of being one, and even if you do not feel the slightest of worries. The murder of men like George Floyd reminds us that racism in the police still exists, and that the system still praises, protects and bolsters police officers committing hate crimes. That a man who proudly wears a cap stating “make whites great again” and had a dozen complaints against him is able to serve in the police is unbelievable.
We cannot continue to let these men decide who lives and who doesn’t, but we also cannot continue to put these men in positions of power. People that believe not all humans equally deserve to be alive should not be the ones hired to protect us, keep us safe. People who consider what their judgment of a culture allows them to physically harm people of that culture should not be the ones we hand the guns to. As long as we keep handing them the guns, putting them in positions of power, electing them, and turning our head the other way when they oppress, harm and discriminate, we are all accomplices to these crimes.
The system needs to change, mentalities need to change, people need to change. This is a change that can only happen if we all wake up. We cannot demand that people who do not believe in equality protect us, and we cannot put our trust in them. We cannot continue to elect people who are known for their racism, sexism, homophobia and more. We cannot continue to let racist, sexist and homophobic men serve in the police. Stop turning a blind eye, stop finding excuses, stop believing the lies they feed you to clear your conscience. Police brutality and racism are everywhere. So is white privilege. They are everyone’s concern. So do your research, donate to charities and organisations, have conversations about it. Words are not enough. Our shock is not enough. Don’t wait for a problem to impact you personally to do something about it.
Donate to help bail out the people arrested for protesting: https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/
Donate to George Floyd’s memorial fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
“Justice for George Floyd” petition: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd