Racism and rioting: Two wrongs that can never make a right
Jonathan Arnott

Editor's note: Jonathan Arnott is a former member of the European Parliament. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Following the death of George Floyd, there are two inescapable facts on which all reasonable people should surely agree.

First, there can be neither excuse nor justification for the killing of an unarmed man in the United States of America by a police officer kneeling on his neck for nine minutes whilst the words "I can't breathe" were heard over and over again. There is a righteous anger: a feeling that the police should be here to protect us. Even though the United States is thousands of miles away from me, to see something so terrible happen to a fellow human being provokes a powerful and emotional reaction. It should do so for everyone. In the short time since George Floyd was killed, at least 45 more people have been shot and killed by law enforcement in the United States. Black, white, Hispanic, young and old, people like Tracy Browne, John Alvarado and Momodou Sisay will never have their cases receive the scrutiny of George Floyd's. There is no video recording.

There will always be more killings by the police in the United States than in most other Western countries: in a nation where everyone has the right to bear arms (a right firmly embedded in much of American culture as inalienable), it is a natural consequence that lethal force will be used more frequently. Last year in the United States of America, over 1,000 people were killed by law enforcement officials. Race appears to be a factor – black people are disproportionately likely to be the victims. For every George Floyd, there might be 10, 50, a 100 more such killings where the evidence is unknown and the truth never uncovered. We do not know.

To those who lament the evil of the death of George Floyd, and truly abhor racism in all its forms, I believe that the world stands behind you. Peaceful protest against an injustice is to be encouraged.

Second, we should all agree that is painful, and depressing, to see a movement which should have peace and justice at its core morphing so quickly into something ugly and dangerous. David Dorn, a retired black police captain from St. Louis Missouri, was shot and killed by looters at the age of 77. In the so-called name of anti-racism, a black man was murdered.

Protesters rally on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, U.S., May 29, 2020. /Xinhua

Protesters rally on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, U.S., May 29, 2020. /Xinhua

I live in the United Kingdom. This weekend, 27 police officers were injured by protestors in the city of London alone. Mindless acts of violence included throwing a bicycle at a police horse. Crowds of people gathered in one place at a time when the COVID-19 virus is not yet under control. According to the British government, an estimated 137,000 people broke lockdown rules to protest. We may never know how many people die from the coronavirus as a result of last weekend's protests. Sadly, a disproportionate number of those who die will be from black and ethnic minority communities – the people most at risk from the virus in the UK.

They have changed the subject. When there is rioting, looting and violence, any reasonable discussion can not proceed. Maintaining order and the rule of law become far more important. Police in the United Kingdom killed just three people last year: two were white, and the third was a terrorist wearing an explosive vest. There is no situation like George Floyd's here, yet our police are brutalized all the same.

There could be no clearer example than the killing of George Floyd to symbolize issues of law enforcement and racism. Those issues are complex, varying from country to country and from institution to institution. Facts and figures require serious thought: black people in the UK are proportionately more likely to be arrested, but white people are more likely to die in custody once they get there. Black people are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, but of those who are stopped and searched, searches of white people are more likely to have proved unnecessary. White people are more likely to be found guilty of offenses in court, but black people are more likely to receive a longer prison sentence. How we understand and respond to these issues requires dialogue. It requires understanding and co-operation between communities. If there is one thing which does not help, and can not help, it's rioting. Extremists on both sides prevent decent, rational, reasonable debate.

Where racism exists, we should fight it. Where we're not sure, we should discuss, debate and study it to find out. Racism may exist in different forms on both sides of the Atlantic; we should not presume that the situation is the same everywhere. I mourn the death of George Floyd, but not in a vacuum – I mourn it as part of a broader picture.

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