United States novelist Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street


This 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. Documentary.

By James McDonald in the USA:

Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street at 100

16 July 2020

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street, the breakthrough work of an author who would become, a decade later, the first American awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, which he later described as “a prairie village in that most Scandinavian part of America, Minnesota,” the son of “a country doctor.” ..

In all, Lewis published 24 novels, including six books of varying seriousness prior to Main Street. The latter, his first important work, was an enormous success, selling 180,000 copies in its first six months and within a few years, an estimated 2 million.

In the following decade and a half, Lewis produced what readers and critics generally consider his most important books, namely Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), Elmer Gantry (1927), Dodsworth (1929) and It Can’t Happen Here (1935).

Although Lewis, who died in 1951, has long since fallen from the syllabi of high school and college American literature courses, his major works merit reading a century or so later not only for their engaging storytelling and the vivid chronicle they offer of American middle-class life in the first half of the twentieth century in particular, but also for their withering satirical attack on the hypocrisies, and worse, of that American life.

Main Street tells the story of Carol Kennicott. When we meet her, in the first decade of the last century, she is still Carol Milford, a highly sensitive but moderately talented co-ed at the fictional Blodgett College on the outskirts of Minneapolis.

Carol yearns “to conquer the world—almost entirely for the world’s own good”—but cannot determine how to accomplish this feat. With a humor that is characteristically frank yet sympathetic, Lewis tells us that at “various times during Senior year Carol finally decided upon studying law, writing motion-picture scenarios, professional nursing, and marrying an unidentified hero.” Such vacillation on Carol’s part seems at first the result of youthful wistfulness, but the beauty of her character is that, as Lewis warns us early on, “Whatever she might become, she would never be static.”

After a few dull years working as a librarian in St. Paul, Carol meets and marries the “solid” Dr. Will Kennicott of Gopher Prairie, feeling for him an affection short of love that will evolve through moods and complications to form as clear-eyed a portrayal of a marriage as is to be found in American literature. (In the marriage to a doctor and the banality of small-town life, there are obvious hints of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, 1856.)

Kennicott’s Gopher Prairie is a market town loosely based on Lewis’s hometown of Sauk Centre, but generic of Midwest prairie towns of the time in its ad hoc ugliness and devotion to money-making. Kennicott persuades the relatively, and self-consciously, urbane Carol to travel back with him and make Gopher Prairie “artistic”, pleading with her, “Make us change!”

The prospect of beautifying “one of these prairie towns” ignites in her a passionate enthusiasm, and the novel follows Carol’s various schemes for accomplishing this mission, from attempting to build a beautiful town hall to wishing to produce edifying plays by George Bernard Shaw. Time and again her efforts bump up against the complacence and venality of her neighbors, and Carol contemplates what it is that makes “the more intelligent young people (and the fortunate widows!) flee to the cities with agility” and not come back in passages such as this:

“It is an unimaginatively standardized background, a sluggishness of speech and manners, a rigid ruling of the spirit by the desire to appear respectable. It is contentment…the contentment of the quiet dead, who are scornful of the living for their restless walking.”

It is to Carol’s credit as a character, and Lewis’s as a novelist, that her understanding of Gopher Prairie and her relationship to it are not summed up in such passages. At times she is filled with compassion for the town’s inhabitants and at others becomes swept up by the beauty of the countryside and is convinced that she loves Gopher Prairie. Such moments of peace, though, Lewis likens to “the contentment of the lost hunter stopping to rest.”

Throughout Main Street, Lewis sees to it that Carol’s consciousness develops, growing more complex as she continuously examines town life, her marriage and herself. Further, her restless spirit—her dedication to beauty, to frankness, to justice for the farmers who are exploited by the town’s businesses, to her own fulfillment as a human being—never flags, making her one of the most compelling female characters in American literature. As she says of herself near the end of the novel, “I’ve never excused my failures by sneering at my aspirations, by pretending to have gone beyond them.”

As noted above, Main Street was an instant bestseller and its publication a national literary event. As Lewis’s biographer Mark Schorer remarks in Sinclair Lewis: An American Life (1961), “It was the most sensational event in twentieth-century American publishing history.” Part of the novel’s importance at the time was that it partook of both fame and infamy. Schorer again: “No reader was indifferent to Main Street: if it was not the most important revelation of American life ever made, it was the most infamous libel upon it.” The novel’s popularity and influence were underscored by the fact that the phrase “Main Street” became a common term denoting a particularly American brand of philistinism.

In 1930, Lewis observed that the novel had been a succès de scandale, because one of “the most treasured American myths had been that all American villages were peculiarly noble and happy, and here an American attacked that myth. Scandalous. Some hundreds of thousands read the book with the same masochistic pleasure that one has in sucking an aching tooth.”

Lewis’s greatest strength as a novelist was his sensitive detection of large social forces as they work themselves out culturally and in the desires and behavior of individuals. Carol Kennicott, for instance, in addition to constituting an intensely detailed and convincing consciousness, serves for Lewis as an embodiment of middle-class liberalism. She imagines improvements to Gopher Prairie that will make the town more pleasant to look at and live in, and she significantly wants to ease the discomfort of the economically oppressed, as when she dresses up the rest room that Gopher Prairie grudgingly provides for the wives of farmers who have been brought to “G.P.” on market day.

Yet Carol is also easily discouraged, giving way to personal emotion when she meets with resistance or ingratitude. And though she occasionally mouths “socialistic” sentiments, she has no stomach whatever for the hard, unglamorous work of political organization. (Toward the end of the novel she does lend a hand to the suffrage movement, but she notes the vast difference between herself and those women who are truly committed to the work.) …

His remarkable novel Babbitt is his first to explore these themes in any depth, with the “boosterism” practiced by businessmen like George F. Babbitt (again, Lewis contributed something to the English language) in the fictional city of Zenith, Ohio, shown to be at once inane in its promotion of “pep” and “zip,” and sinister in its suspicion of those who would challenge the premises of the money-worshipping life. A glimpse of Babbitt can already be seen in Main Street, in the person of “Honest Jim” Blausser, a land speculator and hustler who comes to Gopher Prairie to “boost” it, that is, to make it grow, and who delivers demagogic speeches against “all knockers of prosperity and the rights of property.”

In It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis confronts fascism head-on. While the novel may not compare favorably with his novels of the 1920s as a work of art, its analyses of fascism—as a tool of capitalism, as ruthless toward opponents and as fundamentally irrational—and of specifically American demagoguery make it valuable reading in 2020 America.

Burzelius “Buzz” Windrip is a senator with dictatorial aspirations, intended by Lewis to echo the governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long. “The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic. …” Like Donald Trump and others, Windrip is a symptom of the objective conditions of his time, a worldwide depression and the rise of fascism in Europe, and in It Can’t Happen Here, an obviously ironic title, Lewis considers seriously and with insight just what an American “corporatist” (Windrip’s word) authoritarianism might look like and how the American people might respond.

Racism and police in the USA


This 2 July 2020 video says about itself:

Cop called suspect a racial slur. See why he’s still on the job.

Police unions are facing backlash across the country and experts say in many cities their contracts protect police from being held accountable for bad behavior. CNN’s Drew Griffin reports.

CATHOLIC PRIEST SUSPENDED AFTER CALLING BLM PROTESTERS ‘MAGGOTS’ A Roman Catholic priest in Indiana was suspended from public ministry after calling Black Lives Matter organizers “maggots and parasites” in a message to his parishioners. The Rev. Theodore Rothrock, who was assigned to St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana, wrote a fiery bulletin post on Sunday that disparaged Black Lives Matters organizers for protesting what Rothrock called “alleged systemic racism.” Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana issued the suspension from public ministry in the diocese. [HuffPost]

This is what racial trauma does to the body and brain.

DELAWARE’S LAST WHIPPING POST REMOVED A whipping post that had long stood outside the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware, was finally removed. The post was taken to a storage facility by Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA), which indicated in a press release that the apparatus for corporal punishment was a remnant of the state’s past, which saw whipping “disproportionately applied to persons of color,” with “those sentenced to the whipping post … lashed up to 40 times for a single offense.” [HuffPost]

FAMILIES DEMAND JUSTICE IN CALIFORNIA KILLINGS OF LATINO MEN The families of two young Latino men, both fatally shot just days apart by law enforcement in the San Francisco Bay Area in June, are demanding justice, including legal consequences for the officers involved. On Wednesday, the sisters of Sean Monterrosa — a 22-year-old fatally shot by Vallejo police on June 2 — and Erik Salgado — a 23-year-old fatally shot by California Highway Patrol officers in Oakland on June 6 — rallied in Sacramento with other family members of police brutality victims. [HuffPost]

United States workers support Black Lives Matter


Members of American Postal Workers Local 125, American Postal Workers St. Paul Local, and National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9 (Minneapolis local) held a rally in support of Black Lives Matter

This photo from the USA shows members of American Postal Workers Local 125, American Postal Workers St. Paul Local, and National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9 (Minneapolis local) holding a rally in support of Black Lives Matter.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

Postal workers, bus drivers and students in US support ‘Black Lives Matter

AMERICAN postal workers in Minneapolis are saying Black Lives Matter as over 400 local trade unionists signed a petition calling on workers to resist helping the police suppress the protests.

In the past month, the brutal police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has led to mass protests across the planet, with millions of people across the world standing in solidarity with African Americans.

While the protests have galvanised and inspired millions, the actions of Minneapolis workers in making sure that the protests were effective were no less important.

Local bus drivers refused to drive police officers to the protests, and all light rail services were temporarily shut down.

Alongside transport workers, nurses, social workers and teachers, postal workers were also central to organising solidarity.

[British trade umion] CWU News talked to Tyler Vasseur, an United States Postal Service postal worker and active member of the Minneapolis branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers, about the ongoing events, how his fellow workers responded, and why ‘Black Lives Matter’ is important to the trade union movement.

CWU News: Were you on the ground during the initial George Floyd protests? What were the protests like?

Tyler Vasseur: Yes, I was. On 26th May, tens of thousands of people gathered at the intersection where George Floyd was murdered the previous evening, followed by a march to the 3rd Police Precinct, that covers that part of South Minneapolis (and which became famous two days later, as protesters overran the precinct and burned it to the ground).

This was the biggest protest march I had ever seen in Minneapolis – even bigger than the anti-Trump marches post-2016 election which were huge.

In many ways, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I could tell that first night that this was going to be a lot bigger than just a one-off protest rally. There was this raw energy and rage in the crowd at the violence that the police and political system has inflicted on working-class people, especially people of colour, for hundreds of years.

We’ve seen this to be true with how the movement has spread nationally and internationally, raising the banner of ‘Black Lives Matter’ across the globe.

What was the response to the movement like in your workplace?

Given the massive size of the protests, and that my station services neighbourhoods in South Minneapolis, just a few miles north of the George Floyd memorial site and location of many of the major protests, everyone was talking about the protests.

Some people were scared because of the way the media had portrayed all protests as violent and dangerous. But a majority were in support of the protests and for fighting to stop racist police violence.

CWU News: How did your union respond to the events?

After having conversations with co-workers, I realised many of us were going to the protests as individuals, so I floated the idea to some that we should organise a union member contingent for an upcoming march.

Minneapolis workers demonstrate against police brutality

The first two weeks, there were massive spontaneous protests and marches happening all across Minneapolis, and I figured we could just plug into one of those representing our union, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).

But at the end of the first week of protests, two separate post offices were burned to the ground overnight (they had the unfortunate situation of being located directly next to police stations).

In many ways, this represented the perfect way for our union to get involved in the movement. Because of the explosive nature of the protest and how fast things were moving, rank and file members decided we need to organise something now and get local union leadership to support it later.

We got the time, date, and location set. We got confirmations from over a dozen postal workers that they could attend. Then we brought it to my union’s executive board, won them over and secured their endorsement of the action.

We decided to hold a press conference and rally in front of one of the burned down stations behind the banner ‘Postal Workers Demand Justice for George Floyd’, where we made clear that we stand with the movement. The main message being ‘you can rebuild a post office, but you can’t rebuild the life of a man murdered by the police’.

CWU News: At the moment, many members of our union here in Britain have differing opinions on the protests, and are debating things like whether ‘Black Lives Matter’ is the right thing to be saying or whether their union should be involving itself in this movement. What would your message be to CWU members who are wondering about why the Black Lives Matter movement should be of any concern to their union?

Like I mentioned before, this movement has not only spread across the entire US but internationally as well with huge protest rallies and marches across the UK and Europe. Black Lives Matter is a rallying cry that has been taken up around the world because racism exists everywhere, and it is our duty as the organised working class to fight for our entire class.

For over 40 years the labour movement has been on the defensive, starting with Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK attacking unions and workers rights. This process was even more destructive in the US, where union rates have dropped dramatically.

We are now starting to see the revitalisation of the labour movement in the US, beginning with the West Virginia teachers strike in 2018 which spread across the country.

I believe that if we are to rebuild a fighting labour movement in the US, then our unions need to fight for the entire working class, and that means fighting racist police violence and terror against people of colour.

There is an entire generation of young people moving into struggle, and we have an opportunity in our unions to be a part of this movement against racism and police violence, and to show this new generation that unions are organisations that can be used to fight for progressive change. I think this applies to workers and unions in the UK as well.

Meanwhile, teenagers from Berkeley High in California’s Berkeley brought the Black Lives Matter movement to the Berkeley Hills last Tuesday, speaking out against the city’s history of redlining and segregation and demanding that wealthy, white communities take on challenging conversations and actions to address systemic racism.

The three-hour march began at Ashby BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit station) and ended at Codornices Park, two distinct symbols of the formerly majority-Black, now gentrified Lorin District, and the predominantly white, wealthy North Berkeley.

Shayla Avery, 16, and Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer, 17, who organised the march, were clear about their intention from the beginning, and spoke about it during the protest.

‘We’re here to wake the Berkeley Hills the fuck up! Because they think it’s okay to put up a sign, and then call it a day,’ Avery said, addressing the crowd of about 250 young protesters who showed up on a cool, overcast afternoon.

‘There are people up there that do not fuck with Black people, and will not do that ever. There’s a reason why I don’t feel comfortable going up there. There’s a reason I don’t know the names of those streets.’

Avery, who told Berkeleyside recently how redlining and its local impact is not addressed properly in the BHS curriculum (Black History), talked to the crowd about how decades before and after WWII, banks in Berkeley, and cities throughout the United States, refused loans to Black residents in parts of the Berkeley Hills, and nearby areas.

This forced them to create cultural and economic communities in South Berkeley, which were disrupted and displaced by the construction of Ashby BART in the 1960s.

The young protesters organised the march after being inspired by two Oakland teens who drew 15,000 people to a June 1 protest in Oakland, and the Pay Your Dues gathering drew a handful of children with their parents, along with many teenagers.

Chaga Kwania graduated from Berkeley High in 2006 and brought his two daughters, 10-year-old Crishayla Moreland and 9-year-old Amiyah Moreland.

‘I liked today because it showed that Black lives matter,’ Crishayla said. It wasn’t the girls’ first protest – they’d also attended an action in the past honouring Oscar Grant.

With chants of ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ and ‘Ain’t no power like the power of youth, ’cause the power of youth don’t stop,’ the group danced, sang, marched and protested down Ashby and Shattuck avenues, through downtown and up Rose Street.

They blasted N.W.A’s ‘Fuck Tha Police’ as they ascended the hill, and shouted ‘Join us’ and ‘Out of your homes, into the streets’ when residents emerged from homes to clap, cheer on protesters, and display ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs.

Police were not present or visible at any point during the march, and Berkeley firefighters honked for protesters after the group separated on Shattuck to make way for their truck.

The protesters hiked up to Euclid Avenue to a soundtrack of Black Bay Area musicians Mac Dre, Keak Da Sneak, Mistah F.A.B, Kamaiyah and E-40, and finally arrived at Codornices Park around 6pm, without having taken any breaks in a roughly 2.5-mile march.

Over the last few weeks, Berkeley High students have presented successful demands to Berkeley Unified School District, organised a ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural project that scooped the city’s own plans for a similar mural, and held more consecutive protests than any other Berkeley group since the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.

Their mood was victorious on Tuesday, but Avery and other speakers demanded more from the large numbers of white protesters who came to the gathering.

Schneider-Dwyer, who Avery introduced as a ‘white ally’, told the group to ‘get out of your discomfort’ and take concrete actions to support Black Lives Matter, instead of just adopting a title, putting up a sign, or attending a protest to share photos on social media.

With the backdrop of a misty, and picturesque Berkeley Rose Garden, the protesters held up candles and cellphone lights and read the names of people killed by police – Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Tony McDade and many others – and the names of influential voices in the racial justice movement like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Marsha P. Johnson.

Racism and police brutality update


This 25 June 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

From George Floyd to Slavery: Jeremy Corbyn in conversation with Remi Kapo

“The price of change is always paid in blood

Remi Kapo’s latest book ‘Torrents of Fire‘ is out now.

MAXINE WATERS RIPS TRUMP FOR FOCUS ON DEAD CONFEDERATES In a scathing statement, Rep. Maxine Waters on Thursday lashed Trump’s inaction against the coronavirus pandemic as he instead focuses his energies on protecting statues honoring dead traitors and slaveholders. “We are left with Donald Trump, an incompetent and heartless man who is more focused on saving statues of slaveholders, Confederate generals, and racists than protecting the health of living and breathing American,” the California Democrat said. [HuffPost]

TRUMP TALKS LIKE HE’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERACY Trump is running for a second term as president of the United States, but in recent weeks he’s spoken and written as if he wants to be the next president of the Confederacy. Amid a national uproar over the killing of a Black man by a white Minneapolis police officer and an erosion in his own polling numbers, Trump has made the cornerstone of his response a vow to protect monuments and memorials to the leaders of the treasonous rebellion that cost 750,000 lives for the sole purpose of keeping Blacks enslaved. [HuffPost]

TRUMP HAS DISMANTLED MORE MONUMENTS THAN ANY PROTEST President Donald Trump is promising lengthy prison sentences for anyone who destroys or dismantles a monument to a slave-owning president or leader of the Confederacy. But it is Trump who has done the most damage to national monuments, dismantling or desecrating four federally protected land and water sites with significant cultural, archeological and natural resources. Those rollbacks include carving more than 2 million acres from a pair of protected national monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. [HuffPost]

These TV Dramas Tackled Police Violence Head On, But Hollywood Backed Away. The showrunners of “The Red Line,” “Seven Seconds” and “Shots Fired” discuss how representation in the industry affects a whole lot more than casting: here.

This 24 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Black Child Barred from Eating at Baltimore Restaurant | NowThis

This Black child in athletic clothes was barred from eating at a Baltimore restaurant while a white child in a similar outfit was allowed entry.

Atlas Restaurant Group stated they are changing their dress code policy and that it will no longer be enforced for children under 12.

Facebook failing to contain content from far-right ‘Boogaloo’ movement, experts say.

New Zealand Police brutally attack young man in Auckland. By Tom Peters, 26 June 2020. The attack on an unarmed Maori man in Auckland follows mass protests against police violence and the arming of officers.

Racist United States policemen want race war


Tyshawn, 9, (left) and his brother Tyler, 11, (right) of Baltimore, hold signs saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I Can't Breathe’ as they sit on a concrete barrier near a police line as demonstrators protest along a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, in Washington DC yesterday

By Steve Sweeney, 25 June 2020:

Three US cops sacked after calling for race war so they can ‘slaughter’ black people

THREE US cops have been sacked after dash-cam footage caught them saying they hoped that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests trigger a race war so they could “slaughter” black people.

Kevin Piner, James Gilmore and Jessie Moore were fired from the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) in North Carolina on Wednesday following an internal probe.

A report seen by the Morning Star said they were caught after a monthly audit of dash-cam footage exposed the trio encouraging racial violence, including the execution of a black magistrate who Mr Moore said deserved “a bullet in her head.”

OAKLAND SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO ELIMINATE ITS POLICE DEPARTMENT The school board in Oakland, California, unanimously voted to dismantle the school district’s police department — the latest to cut ties with law enforcement amid nationwide anti-racism protests. All seven board members voted in favor of the “George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate the Oakland School Police Department.” Oakland Unified School District has its own police department, with over 120 officers and other personnel. [HuffPost]

This 7 June 2020 video from New York City is called Crown Heights Black Lives Matters Solidarity March.

Young Hasidic Jews mobilized their community for Black Lives Matter. Now they’re organizing online. By Irene Connelly, June 24, 2020.

Jewish demonstration for Black Lives Matter

United States Black Lives Matter and police brutality


This 12 June 2020 video says about itself:

Black Lives Matter Protests Around the World

Protesters of all ages, all races, all backgrounds are showing up at Black Lives Matter protests out of love for their fellow human beings. Out of love for George Floyd. Out of love for Breonna Taylor. Out of love for all of the Black people who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin. You can feel this love when you attend a protest. You can see it on the faces of the people all around you. You can hear it in their voices. Sometimes, it flows through the mass of people like a quiet undercurrent. Sometimes, it’s downright joyful. No matter how it’s expressed, it’s always potent, always powerful. And it’s going to change the world for the better. From New York City to Philadelphia, from Amsterdam to Paris, this is what it is like to attend Black Lives Matter protests.

From daily News Line in Britain, 25 June 2020:

US police committed widespread human rights violations against Black Lives Matter protesters

Police forces across the USA have committed widespread human rights violations against Black Lives Matter protesters, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, as it launched a detailed interactive map of more than 100 incidents of police violence.

Amnesty has documented 125 separate examples of police violence against protesters in 40 states and the District of Columbia between 26 May and 5 June, a period when hundreds of thousands of people in the USA and other countries protested against racism and police violence.

The mapped analysis reveals a dizzying array of violations by police forces across the country in 80% of US states.

In light of disturbing images of US police violence in the week immediately following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Amnesty UK called on the UK Government to halt exports of all security and policing equipment to the USA.

However, despite considerable public and political support for the export freeze, the Government has not halted sales.

Amnesty’s new research shows how US law-enforcement officers’ use of unlawful force included beatings, misuse of tear gas and pepper spray, and the inappropriate firing of less-lethal projectiles such as rubber bullets and sponge rounds.

The abuses were committed by a range of security forces – from state and local police departments, to federal agencies and the National Guard.

Amnesty’s mapping shows the violations were not limited to the largest cities.

Local police inappropriately used tear gas against peaceful protesters in Louisville, Kentucky; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, among other towns and cities.

And in Fort Wayne, Indiana on 30 May, a local journalist lost his eye when police shot him in the face with a tear gas grenade.

Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab gathered almost 500 videos and photographs of protests from social media platforms.

This digital content was then verified, geolocated, and analysed by investigators with expertise in weapons, police tactics, and international and US laws governing the use of force. In some cases, researchers were also able to interview victims and confirm police conduct with local police departments.

While the majority of the protesters have been peaceful, some have used violence.

In many cases, however, rather than respond to individual violations, security forces have used disproportionate and indiscriminate force against entire demonstrations.

Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Advisor on Arms and Military Operations, said: ‘The analysis is clear: when activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in cities and towns across the USA to peacefully demand an end to systemic racism and police violence, they were overwhelmingly met with a militarised response and more police violence.

‘The time for applying band-aids and making excuses for a few “bad apples” has passed.

‘What’s needed now is systemic, root-and-branch reform of US policing that brings an end to the scourge of police use of excessive force and extrajudicial executions of black people.

‘Communities should not live in fear of being harmed by the very officers that have sworn an oath to protect them. Officers responsible for excessive force and unlawful killings must always be held accountable.’

Examples of police abuse

On 30 May: a joint patrol of Minneapolis police and Minnesota National Guard personnel unlawfully shot US-manufactured 37/40mm impact projectiles at people peacefully standing on the front porches of their homes.

After encountering people recording with their phones, the forces ordered people to ‘get inside’ and then shouted ‘light them up’ before firing.

On 1 June: security personnel from a variety of federal agencies – including National Park Police and the Bureau of Prisons, as well as DC National Guard personnel – committed a range of human rights violations against protesters in Lafayette Square in Washington.

They used riot shields to shove protesters and media workers, misused a variety of crowd control agents, and threw US-manufactured Stinger Ball grenades – which contain pepper spray and explode in a concussive ‘flash-bang’ which sprays rubber pellets indiscriminately in all directions.

The attack, which preceded a photo-op by President Trump in front of a nearby church, was widely reported by media, including a lengthy Washington Post video featuring Amnesty analysis.

This 8 June 2020 Washington Post video is called A video timeline of the crackdown on protesters before Trump’s photo op.

Also on June 1st state and city police in the Center City area of Philadelphia used large amounts of tear gas and pepper spray to remove dozens of peaceful protesters from the Vine Street Expressway.

One protester, Lizzie Horne, a rabbinical student, told Amnesty: ‘Out of the blue, they started breezing pepper spray into the crowd.

‘There was one officer on the central reservation who was spraying as well.

‘Then they started with tear gas. Someone who was right in the front – who had a tear gas canister hit his head – started running back.

‘And we were trying to help him, flushing his eyes and then he just fainted and started having a seizure. He came to pretty quickly.

‘As we were finally lifting him up and start getting him out of the way, they started launching more tear gas; that’s when people started to get really scared.

‘They started gassing in a kettle formation – we were against a big fence that people had to jump over, up a steep hill. The fence was maybe six feet tall.

‘People started putting their hands up – but the cops wouldn’t let up. It was can after can after can. We were encapsulated in gas.

‘We were drooling and coughing uncontrollably. Then the cops came from the other side of the fence and started gassing from that direction.

‘After that, the police started coming up the hill and … they were hitting and tackling people. They were dragging people down the hill and forcing them down on their knees, lining them up kneeling on the central reservation on the highway with their hands in zip ties, and pulling down their masks and spraying and gassing them again.’

Growing calls for major reforms

In a 16 June executive order, President Trump called for incentives to limit the use of chokeholds of the kind that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May, as well as a national database on allegations of excessive force by police.

Some state and city police forces have introduced partial reforms since the protests began, such as suspending the use of certain crowd control weapons like tear gas.

In Minneapolis, a majority of the City Council has pledged to disband the police force and replace it with more effective public safety institutions.

Amnesty is demanding comprehensive reforms to US policing to stop police extrajudicial executions of black people and bring accountability for their deaths through independent, impartial investigations that lead to reparations for the victims and survivors.

Amnesty is also insisting that the right to peaceful protest against police violence should be enabled, without the threat of protesters, journalists or bystanders being targeted by further police violence.

Amongst other reforms, Amnesty is calling for:

  • Federal legislation, including the PEACE Act, as well as new state laws to restrict police use of force to what is strictly necessary and proportionate;
  • An end to the ‘qualified immunity’ doctrine, which prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law;
  • Federal legislation to demilitarise US police forces.

Human rights standards

Security forces can only resort to use of force at public assemblies when it is absolutely necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate law enforcement objective, in response to serious violence threatening the lives or rights of others.

Even then, authorities must strictly distinguish between peaceful demonstrators or bystanders, and any individual who is actively engaged in violence.

The violent acts of an individual never justify the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters generally, and force is only justified until the immediate threat of violence toward others is contained.

Any restrictions of public assemblies – including use of force against demonstrators – must not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, political ideology or other categories.

Excessive use of force against peaceful protesters violates both the US Constitution and international human rights law. Law-enforcement agencies at all levels have a responsibility to respect, protect, and facilitate peaceful assemblies.

Racism and police update


This 23 June 2020 video says about itself:

Brandon Saenz: Dallas Protester Lost an Eye After Police Shot Him with “Less Lethal” Projectile

As a new Amnesty International report documents at least 125 instances of police violence against Black Lives Matters protesters in 40 states from May 26 to June 5, we speak with Brandon Saenz, a 26-year-old Black man shot in the face by Dallas police with so-called less-lethal ammunition that shattered his left eye and fractured his face. We also speak with his lawyer, Daryl Washington, about how he has since helped to win a 90-day preliminary injunction against the police use of chemical agents and rubber bullets in Dallas.

OFFICER FIRED MONTHS AFTER BREONNA TAYLOR KILLING Detective Brett Hankison, one of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor in March, was officially fired on Tuesday — more than three months after her death. Hankison was one of three officers who entered Taylor’s home under a “no-knock” warrant on March 13 for a narcotics investigation unrelated to her. They shot the 26-year-old Black woman several times. The two other officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. None of the three officers has been charged. [HuffPost]

PROBE INTO POLICE ATTACK ON PROTESTERS BEFORE TRUMP POSED WITH BIBLE The inspector general of the Interior Department is launching an investigation into law enforcement attacks on protesters ordered by Attorney General William Barr outside the White House before Trump walked to a nearby church to hold up a Bible for a photo-op. The Office of the Inspector General “confirmed that it is investigating the Trump administration’s excessive use of force” against the protesters, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. [HuffPost]

The greatest trick racism ever pulled was convincing England it doesn’t exist.

This 23 June 2020 video says about itself:

Cédric Chouviat: French police investigated over death of delivery driver

A delivery driver in Paris who died after a traffic stop in January was heard shouting “I’m suffocating” in footage seen by French media. Cédric Chouviat, a 42-year-old father-of-five, reportedly said he couldn’t breathe seven times in 22 seconds as the officers appeared to pin him down.

By Steve Sweeney, 24 June 2020:

Paris cops spark another ‘I can’t breathe’ case

Video of delivery-driver dad-of-5’s suffocation mirrors US police brutality

POLICE brutality has come under the spotlight in France again after footage emerged of a delivery driver pleading for his life as he struggled for breath while being restrained following a traffic stop.

Cedric Chouviat was heard repeatedly shouting “I’m suffocating” and telling officers he couldn’t breathe at least seven times in 22 seconds after he was pulled over in the capital Paris in January.

The father-of-five died two days later in hospital after falling into a coma. A coroner ruled the cause of his death as asphyxia and a broken larynx.

None of the four officers involved in the incident have been suspended but last week they were taken into custody and interviewed over the incident as part of judicial investigations. Charges could be brought in the coming weeks.

Initial reports from their lawyer said that Mr Chouviat was pulled over because he was on his mobile phone and had a dirty licence plate.

Video footage shows him being pinned face down to the ground while appealing for his life.

His family have accused police of unjustified violence. Witnesses say that officers held Mr Chouviat in a chokehold, a dangerous and much-criticised restraint technique.

A recent decision by the French government to ban its use was overturned after police unions held demonstrations in support of their right to use the violent act on citizens.

Lawyers for the family have asked for the incident to be reclassified as “willful violence resulting in death.”

Last week the Morning Star reported on an incident in which Paris police smashed a nurse’s head against a tree repeatedly before dragging her into custody by her hair during a protest by health workers.

Nearly 300 investigations were opened into police violence last year during the yellow-vest anti-government protests.

The interior ministry admitted in May 2019 that 2,448 protesters had been injured during the demonstrations. It is believed that at least 24 people were blinded in an eye and 283 sustained head injuries as police used rubber bullets and other weapons to disperse crowds.

Racism and police brutality


This 21 June 2020 video says about itself:

Even during nationwide protest, Donald Trump is finding more ways to oppress minorities. John Iadarola and David Cay Johnston break it down on The Damage Report.

TRUMP RALLY CROWD UNDERWHELMS President Donald Trump addressed a mostly maskless and enthusiastic — though much smaller than expected — crowd of supporters at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night as some protesters gathered outside to call for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. “You are warriors, thank you. We had some very bad people outside,” Trump told the crowd, referring to protesters as “thugs”, The Tulsa event was held against the advice of Trump’s own coronavirus task force, which had urged White House officials to nix the event amid fears it might spread coronavirus. The arena was about one-third full. [HuffPost]

If you still don’t get why COVID-19 hit Black people harder, read this.

12-year-old “This Is Us” star reveals the racism he’s already experienced.

NON-WHITE JAIL OFFICERS WEREN’T ALLOWED TO MONITOR EX-COP DEREK CHAUVIN Eight non-white corrections officers at a county jail that initially housed Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, say they were barred from guarding Chauvin because of their race, according to the Star Tribune. The corrections officers, all of whom work at Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul, have alleged that they were ordered to a separate floor while their white colleagues monitored Chauvin, because jail authorities considered them a “liability” around the former officer. [HuffPost]

WHAT MIGHT REFORMING POLICE UNIONS LOOK LIKE? The political power of police unions has helped them secure strong job protections ― too strong, reform proponents have said. Collective bargaining agreements for police often have provisions that erase disciplinary records after a certain period of time, grant police broad access to investigative files in misconduct cases and have an appeals process that can get officers rehired after unjustified shootings. Other unionized public sector employees often benefit from similar protections. But those workers typically don’t end up shooting and killing Black citizens in the course of their jobs. So what might reforming police unions look like? [HuffPost]

THE REAL LOOTERS OF THE BRONX Last week, a few dozen protesters gathered at a busy intersection near the northern tip of New York City for “A People’s Tour of the Real Looters of the Bronx.” Over a week earlier, the New York Post and other media outlets had painted a grim portrait of the borough. “Bronx streets turn chaotic as looters run wild,” screamed one Post headline. “Fires, mayhem in the Bronx,” said the Daily News. “Looters run wild in Bronx,” Fox News declared. But the dedicated activists at the June 12 demonstration were here to tell a much different story. The activists were here, they said, to defend their neighbors from racist narratives crafted by multimillion-dollar media companies. [HuffPost]

Dressing while Black: Self-censoring to pass in white spaces.

Most Black people think Britain is a racist place to live. Most white people don’t.

 

American racism, anti-racism and NASCAR car racing


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

ILWU Juneteenth Voices Speak Out At Port Of Oakland

Participants in the ILWU Juneteenth rallies and marches spoke out about the police terror, systemic racism and the role of the unions in this fight.

This took place on June 19, 2020 at the Port of Oakland where the first rally took place.

Bubba Wallace (left) wore a T-shirt referring to the death of George Floyd when singing the national anthem before a race on June 6. AFP photo

This photo shows Bubba Wallace (left) wearing a T-shirt referring to the deaths by police brutality of George Floyd, Eric Garner and others, when singing the national anthem before a NASCAR race on June 6.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Black Nascar driver faces death threat on race track

The US American motorsport organization Nascar is investigating the discovery of a noose in the garage box of the only black driver in the top competition yesterday at the Talladega circuit in the American state of Alabama.

The death threat against Budda Wallace, 26, is believed to be related to the ban on displaying the Confederate flag on and around Nascar race tracks. This was instituted after the death of black American George Floyd in Minneapolis and at Wallace’s insistence.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), the Confederate flag was the flag of the Southern states that fought to keep slavery. Today, many see it as a symbol of racism, although proponents say it is a southern heritage.

Wallace is supported by LeBron James

Wallace said he won’t be put off. “This makes me incredibly sad and painfully demonstrates that we have a long way to go in the fight against racism,” said Wallace. “I stand firm for what I believe in.” …

On Twitter, basketball star LeBron James expresses support for Wallace.

Before the Nascar race in Talladega, an airplane flew over the track with a banner of the Confederate flag. On Saturdays and Sundays cars could be seen around the circuit carrying the flag.

The race was canceled after a delay due to severe weather.

TRUMP SMEARS NASCAR’S ONLY BLACK DRIVER Trump inexplicably asked NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace to apologize to other drivers for a “hoax” about a noose found in his garage. The FBI determined last month that Wallace, who is Black and successfully lobbied NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its events, was not targeted for a racist attack after a crew member found the noose hanging from a garage handle at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. However, authorities made no accusations about a “hoax,” and Wallace had to defend himself against such baseless claims. [HuffPost]

CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR AMY COOPER IN RACIST CENTRAL PARK CLAIM A white woman who called police and falsely accused an African American man of threatening her life after he asked her to leash her dog in New York’s Central Park is being criminally charged over the incident, Manhattan’s district attorney said. Amy Cooper, 41, whose actions on May 25 were recorded on a video that went viral and touched off discussions about white privilege, is being charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Cooper is expected to be arraigned on Oct. 14. [Reuters]

Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dutch Emmen


This 21 June 2020 Dutch video shows how hundreds of people participated today in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Emmen town in Drenthe province; in solidarity against racist police violence in the USA and elsewhere.

‘Tipping point’: Greta Thunberg hails Black Lives Matter protests. People are realising ‘we cannot keep looking away from these things’, says climate activist: here.