Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
THE widespread demonstrations sparked by the killing of a black unarmed man George Floyd last Monday by a white police officer in the US has exposed that the world’s “biggest democracy” is years from dealing with the race issue afflicting it.
Critically though, the response by the US government to the demonstrations has exposed its duplicity in terms of what it prescribes what other countries should do when they deal with internal situations and what the “mighty US” actually does when faced with similar circumstances.
On the back foot as demonstrations raged across the US like a wild fire with never seen images of both black and whites uniting to fight the racial prejudice the people of colour have long suffered, the US government went about breaching the very values that they claim to stand for.
An “advocate” of the protection of rights of journalists, the US has always postured, but last Friday the world watched in shock as CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, a black and latino, was arrested in Minneapolis as he gave a live television report on the demonstrations and was led away by the police, asking them why he was being arrested and the police not giving a response.
The police handcuffed Jimenez on live television and led him away despite the fact that he had identified himself and even asked the law enforcement agents on where he should stand so that he doesn’t interfere with their work.
“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. . . . put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way — wherever you want us (we’ll) get out of your way,” Jimenez is quoted as having said to the police before he was arrested.
“We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection.”
According to reports, Jimenez was detained, together with his crew, for an hour and released following frantic efforts by CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker for his freedom.
It was not the arrest alone that shook the world but also that a colleague of Jimenez, a white reporter Josh Campbell, who was in the area but not standing with the on-air crew, was approached by police, but was allowed to remain.
“I identified myself . . . they said, ‘OK, you’re permitted to be in the area,’” recounted Campbell. “I was treated much differently than (Jimenez) was.”
Not only was Jimenez violated in the line of his journalistic work but he was also racially profiled, the very act that led to the death of Floyd torching widespread demonstrations from all parts of the US and beyond.
On Monday, it was also reported that the police and national guard, US reserve military force for domestic emergencies, fired rubber bullets and teargas at peaceful protesters outside White House for the purposes of clearing the way for President Trump’s photo op outside St John’s Church famously referred to as the “church of presidents.”
The reason for the photo op, we are told, was that President Trump was infuriated by media reports that the secret service on Friday whisked him into an underground bunker at the White House as the demonstrations heated up in the US.
On the same day, President Trump had told state governors to deploy the national guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets.” If they failed, he said he would deploy the army to quell the demonstrations in line with the country’s Insurrection Act of 1807.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” said President Trump.
Many were taken aback by President Trump’s statements given that many times when other governments deployed their armies in terms of their national laws to quell violence, the US has shouted the loudest crying “militarisation” of states.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade made the observation in a statement after meeting US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian Nichols on Monday.
“We take due note of the measures deployed by the US authorities to deal with the challenges currently confronting them,” said Dr Moyo.
“At the same time, we recall the harsh US criticism and condemnation of our own response to multiple instances of illegal, violent civil unrest incited, largely, by opposition political formations determined to render the country ungovernable; we recall their automatic presumption of state culpability in instances of alleged abduction, and their assumption of an institutionalised disregard for human rights or rule of law within our Government; and we reflect on the lack of balance and even the double standards so evident in US policy towards Zimbabwe.”
Dr Moyo had summoned Mr Nichols following the characterisation of Zimbabwe by US national security advisor Mr Robert O’Brien as an adversary of the US seeking to take advantage of the current unrest in that country to sow discord and damage their “democracy.”
That there has been, over the years, systematic targeting of blacks by police in America, is a matter of public record. This abuse has been documented in many forms from music to film and documentaries while a lot of movements have been established as a reaction to the abuse.
For example, the late hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, himself a son of a civil rights activist, in his “Changes” in the 1990s highlights the racial subjugation of blacks in “the land of the free”.
“I see no changes, all I see is racist faces, Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races… Cops give a damn about a negro. Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero,” are part of the lyrics to the song.
Many before Tupac had highlighted the suffering of blacks in the US with Sam Cooke in 1964 releasing the song “A change is gonna come” which became an anthem of the civil rights movement and with more than 500 renditions by some of the greatest black American musicians including Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Otis Redding among others.
In his death, Floyd has exposed the failure by the US to effectively deal with the race issue that has seen many innocent blacks being killed either by the police or freelance vigilantes over no other crime than the colour of their skin.
He has also exposed the duplicity by the US which wants to prescribe how states should deal with their respective internal issues when they themselves apply the same measures they discourage when under siege.