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"I can't breathe" - expert comment on the Minneapolis protests

Protests have erupted across the USA over the death of George Floyd. Dr Lydia Plath, Associate Professor of US History, comments:

"The death of George Floyd was tragic, unnecessary, and shocking. But no one should find it surprising. There is a long and painful history of racist violence perpetrated against African Americans in the United States, including by police officers. In the eighteenth century, slave patrols were established to restrict the movement of enslaved people. In the nineteenth century, police officers sexually assaulted black women with impunity and stood aside while lynch mobs dragged victims from their jails to the nearest tree. During the Civil Rights Movement, police officers opened fire hoses and set their dogs on children. In 2014, Eric Garner spoke the same dying words as George Floyd as police officers choked him to death: “I can’t breathe.”

"African Americans have resisted racist violence from the beginning. From slave rebellions to anti-lynching activism; from the movements of the 1960s to more recent uprisings in Ferguson, we should not be surprised that there is little faith in black communities that anything will change unless protestors take action to convince the nation that their lives matter.

"To many black Americans, the men and women on the streets of Minneapolis St Paul are not rioting “thugs”, as Donald Trump has asserted; they are part of an ongoing rebellion against a white supremacist status quo that historically has never valued black lives. They just want to be able to breathe."

29 May 2020

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