Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: “Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears; I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” These opening lines of a speech by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar had a hauntingly familiar ring. George Floyd is a metaphor. Besides, George Floyd is a message to black people all over the world: Civil rights activists, politicians, and speaker after speaker waxed poetic, quoting extensively from Shakespeare and the Holy Scriptures. In the end, after extolling the virtues of American exceptionalism, now all is buried, and American exceptionalism is a dangerous myth and has taken a turn for the worse. It is democracy under President Donald Trump, and racist police are at risk of burial American exceptionalism.
Fatoumatta: Black humanity is under siege. From the mines of Marikana to the slave markets in Libya, black bodies are conceived as threatening, worthless, and disposable. In America, black people have been terrorized for more than 400 years. However, in a post-slavery, post-Jim Crow, and post-Civil rights dispensation, racism has refused to exit the plantation, as white cops shoot black people (black men in particular) with reckless abandon.
Fatoumatta: Black men who did not resist arrest are shot. Those reaching for their IDs in the glove-box are shot. Those unarmed who flee in fright are shot in the back. Consistently, however, these police officers never get to account for their actions. Instead, they are acquitted by a questionable justice system that forces grieving black families to relive the pain and trauma of their slain folk, foreclosing any hope of healing.
Fatoumatta: The American Justice system is clearly at crossroads. They are trying to appease the protestors, but being careful to preserve the state that depends on a racially tilted police force by assuring the rest in the force that the state will not quickly abandon anyone of them to the crowd in the streets.
In 2014, New York State police officers approached Eric Garner on the suspicion that he was “selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps.” Already tired of constant harassment, Garner was unwilling to cooperate with the officers, who wrestled him to the ground and held him in a chokehold. “I can’t breathe,” Garner said 11 times while lying down. At some point, he lost consciousness and was later taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Like Garner, George Floyd could not breathe. With a police knee pressing his neck to the ground, breathing ceased some minutes later. Floyd did not resist arrest—indeed, he had already been handcuffed and subdued. Except that he was still breathing and the white police officer, with one hand in a pocket and flanked by indulgent colleagues, needed to put a stop to that—which he did.
While Garner and Floyd were asphyxiated, tens of other black men in America have been shot to death in a pattern of police murder that fails to abate. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Aston Sterling, John Crawford, Walter Scott, Terrence Crutcher, Dontre Hamilton, and more. The killings are as consistent as the injustice that follows, and the racial motivation is hardly in question. Protests come and go, stirring a performance of justice that yields nothing, until the next happens.
Fatoumatta: The alleged murder of George Floyd is a clear case of 1st Degree Murder. According to the videos in circulation, the police officer Derek Chauvin had the comfort of not less than seven long minutes to think about what he was doing – training his knee on the most sensitive part of the victim’s superstructure of life and slowly crushing the entire nervous system. Derek Chauvin did not aim at hurting the victim. He came out there to kill George Floyd in a well thought out and useful method – subdue him and then go straight for the source of life and apply pressure on it until the brain gives up on life.
Officer Derek Chauvin and his colleagues ensured that any possible intervention was kept at bay so that the process of painful premeditated murder was completed without interruption. This was no knee-jerk reaction of a cop fearing for his life. It was not a case of a cop who had suddenly run mad and did not appreciate that his acts may lead to death. The cop premeditated his actions and knew that his actions would ultimately lead to death in a few minutes. He swang the knee around the neck, slowly and firmly, displacing one disk after another from the vertebrate. He did not lift his knee until the victim was utterly lifeless.
Fatoumatta: What about the three other officers? They stood to watch and scared away, eyewitnesses and protestors. They blocked cameras from clicking on the 7 minutes long murderous action by their colleague. They heard the victim cry and say he could not breathe anymore, but ignored. They knew and supported the murderer in his evil act. Police officer Derek Dauvin was killing a subdued George Floyd methodically, slowly and painfully, in the full glare of the public, and as the other cop stands guard. The groaning, the pleading, and the helplessness of George Floyd did not move the killer Derek nor his accomplice. The protests by eyewitnesses fell on deaf ears as a police officer killed a subdued George in cold blood. It was a conspiracy to kill. They are complicit in the 1st Degree murder.
Police Bestaliality and Police brutality in The Gambia:
With such wanton degree of state-enabled terror visited on black lives, African Americans cannot happily return to Africa: because Africa is an even more excellent site of devastation. In the Gambia, the smallest nation in the world, paramilitary in 2000 killed 14 unarmed student demonstrators in cold blood and wounded several young people. In 2016 at the Banjul police station, Lamin Dibba died in state custody, and people around the Senegambia Tourism Development Area are repeatedly flagged down from cars, motorcycles, and frisked. Some end up abducted and taken to ATMs, where they are stripped of every penny in their accounts. Others who prove uncooperative may end up in police cells or locked up on trumped-up charges.
Fatoumatta: George Floyd is reminding the Diasporan that fleeing home for the safety of America may not always mean safety. Foreign land can be home, especially with permanent residencies or acquired citizenship. However, if blacks who have lived in America for over 400 years still have no home, why do African immigrants think they will find any?
For America, if the case of George Floyd goes to trial, it would not just be the killer cops on the stand; it would be the American justice system too. There is an opportunity here to make a bold statement that goes beyond justice for Mr. Floyd. It would be a signal to racist police officers on the streets of America that the cotton fields are closed for good and that them.
According to an Amnesty International report, there were human rights complaints against the Gambia Police during Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorship as well as police brutality in President Adama Barrow’s first two years in power. In 2017, Haruna Jatta, a native of Foni, was killed by security officers following a protest by unarmed residents of Foni. In 2018, the paramilitary officers of the Gambia Police Force in Faraba Bantang shot and killed three unarmed civilians and injured several others. Most of the complaints involve torture, extortion, and extra-judicial killings. In America, there is at least the pretense of prosecution. In the Gambia, the cases rarely ever make it to court. Perhaps, this is why the Gambia police are sometimes referred to as “kill-and-go.”
Fatoumatta: Unsafe on the African continent, unsafe in the diaspora, black people find no reprieve and cannot breathe. The hard truth is simple: there will be no reprieve until African countries build societies that are as prosperous as those of the West so that black people who feel unsafe in the West can have a saner clime to return to if they so desire. For now, Africa has not proven any less violent to black bodies than America does—and that is the tragedy. Indeed other races dehumanize black Africans, aware that we are treated worse in our own homes. Then again, police brutality in the West makes our local cops to see police abuse as usual. It is a cycle that is both vicious and organically reinforcing.
Fatoumatta: More than ever, the need is urgent to build our societies and do better than the West. Pre-colonial Africa had a policing rooted in the community and devoid of violence.
Alagi Yorro Jallow