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02nd Jun 2020

What kind of civil rights protest will America accept?

Wayne Farry


The United States has seen countless protests over the last week

When unarmed black man George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, it was the spark that lit a fire in America. Protests immediately began in the city where he had died, before spreading nationwide.

These protesters were greeted with aggression by police in riot gear. Riots erupted. Buildings were destroyed. Stores were looted.

The scenes of fire reaching high into the sky while police and ambulance sirens rang around cities has provoked a mixed response. For some, this is simply the natural reaction of a people who have been consistently denied justice and equality.

For others, the riots delegitimise a legitimate grievance about racial inequality and police brutality against minorities.

‘Protest peacefully if you want to be taken seriously,’ is an all too common utterance from members of America’s commentariat, but history suggests that these kinds of protests too are not welcomed.

When former San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick protested against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, he was roundly criticised and labeled ‘ungrateful’ and ‘unpatriotic’.

He was released by his franchise, and has yet to return to the sport. So the question must be asked, what kind of protest does America find acceptable?