This happened a month before the vote on the possibility of replacing the constitution still in force from the Pinochet period, which ended 30 years ago (1990). As a result of the validity of that constitution, the Chilean people experienced unprecedented brutality last year, but above all total immunity for those who exercised so much excessive violence. Since October 2019, 8,575 alleged violations by the Chilean Carabineros have been recorded in the repression of the protests, including torture and rampant inequality and a series of systemic injustices. The resulting police repression has been internationally condemned. However, only 16 police officers have been dismissed. Without a doubt, an atrocious result of this unbridled repression was the loss of sight caused by the use of pellets against the demonstrators, which brought the total or partial victims to more than 352. A veritable pandemic, created by the State.
This case occurred a year later (7 October 2019) when Ecuador‘s police did same thing (throwing off a bridge) to three indigenous demonstrators against Lenín Moreno’s government. One died. This shows us that these events are systemic and global. In fact, it is now intensifying with the pandemic, as the alleged need to impose the law through the police has spread throughout the Planet, and cops have gained a new presence in our streets. From day one, disrespectful attitudes and many unacceptable ones were reported, involving an abuse of authority. This attitude must be added to measures such as the lockdow itself (in some places real siege) and rules that were adopted. And also to a difficult social situation for many families and individuals, as the new rules seriously affected their living conditions, but in which the rights of protest were also restricted. All these limitations are intensifying in the communities of the Global South, and especially in those with few economic resources.
Without a doubt, a global trigger was the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis (USA) on 25 May. Although the protests focused on the origin and ethnicity of the victim, from the Black Lives Matter movement, the very fact of dying as a result of the gratuitous violence of an agent was at the base of the subsequent protests that spreaded around the world. As we say, these focused on the racism of the system and the institutions, on the racism on which colonialism was based, but also on the violence of the police and the state to impose, among others, these inequalities.
In fact, as in yesterday’s case of the young man thrown from a bridge and his Ecuadorian replica, in this case too the replica would occur a month later in Sao Paolo (Brazil), then in Bogota, and now in Vallekas, without us having to lament a mortal victim in the latter case. It would appear that images that have been circulating around the world owing to their rage and social rejection, which furthermore have resulted in political and social crises such as those experienced in the USA, far from being dissuasive, seem to be attracting the attention of the thugs (*). This is how Gabriel Nunes de Sousa was also murdered in Brazil and the lawyer Javier Ordóñez in Colombia.
The young black man Gabriel Nunes de Sousa, aged 19, was murdered on 21 June by the police by strangulation, first with the one known in Brazil as the “Lion killer” and then with his knee around his neck for almost a minute, in Carapicuíba (Brazil). He had been arrested because he could not brake his motorbike and crashed into a car.
Lawyer Javier Ordoñez was murdered by the police in Bogotá (Colombia) on 8 September, afer arrest for drinking in the street without wearing a mask. Although the final reason was a beating at the police station, Ordóñez was reduced by a policeman with his leg on his neck during his arrest. He was also assaulted and tortured with taser guns. As in the case of George Floyd, his death was also recorded and spread, getting viral. The importance of records is so big in unmasking brutality and its perpetrators that in Brazil, although it is not forbidden to photograph or film police actions, the police prevent it.
It would appear that in some countries they are unaware of the economic and other consequences of these events: if the central police station in Minneapolis burned down on 28 May, as a result of the murder of Ordóñez, so happenned in Colombia, but in this case the authorities raised the number of burned or vandalised police stations to 95.
Considering the level of repression in Colombia with political assassinations and other types of violence occurring on a daily basis, and more so in recent days, this fact has significant relevance. On the one hand, it denotes the weariness of this violence that causes people to finally take to the streets to demand justice, and on the other hand, how the (in)security forces are seen. Obviously, the police reaction, knowing their procedures, was also brutal with 11 deaths counted.
Brazil is another country where deaths at the hands of the police are deeply rooted (between 2008 and 2013, more than 11,000 deaths), linked to the social situation, to marginalisation, to poverty, and this in turn to the issue of ethnicity and social background. To all this we must add the immunity and ease that the pandemic added to confinement, and the presence in the government of Bolsonaro, who was elected for his promise of “zero tolerance” for criminals, among other things (just as Trump now also praised the Proud Boys, white supremacists who defend violence, in his election campaign).
In Bolsonaro’s first three months in office, five people were killed each day. In Rio de Janeiro alone, the police killed 434 people in those three months. Bolsonaro also excluded the publication of data on police violence, but the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office forced its publication after 1,486 complaints of police violence were filed in 2019.
Coinciding with the international anti-racism protests, police violence against blacks in Brazil’s suburbs also escalated in June. In São Paulo, between January and April, police fatalities increased by 31%. In April, in the midst of the lockdown, 119 deaths were reported at the hands of the police (78 in 2019). The most emblematic was the case of 15-year-old black boy Guilherme Silva Guedes, who disappeared and was later found dead. A 16-year-old black teenager was also attacked with kicks in the belly and punches by a military policeman in Bahia for wearing an Afro hair. In May in Rio the police killed 21-year-old Iago César dos Reis Gonzaga after he was tortured in the favela of Acari, and 18-year-old João Vítor da Rocha was shot in Cidade de Deus.
58 cases of violence or torture by police officers have been reported since the beginning of the year, with 68% of the victims being black and from outlying neighbourhoods. According to the Yearbook of Violence of the Brazilian Forum for Public Security, 75% of the victims of police lethality are black, with 56% of the population declaring themselves to be black. Despite this, Bolsonaro’s son says that “there are no cases like [George] Floyd’s here”.
But sadly this was not the only case. In the brutal police repression of a rally in Vallekas (Madrid), one of the policemen used the same formula that led to George Floyd’s death. But it was not the only way either: head blows from behind, punches and kneecaps against the faces of defenceless demonstrators, kicks on the ground… a real absurdity. Four detainees. But be aware that the reason for the rally and the consequent repression is related to the issue at hand, which was none other than protesting in front of a Health Centre for public health and against the “segregation to which the working class neighbourhoods are submitted for everything except producing wealth”, as Red Roja put it in its statement.
They continue: “a good sample of how the state government plans to face this new escalation of the pandemic and the social hecatomb that is coming”. Because let us not forget either with which government this repression takes place. Nor should we forget that if the Clamp Law was introduced by the previous PP government, despite election promises, the PSOE maintains it, and even used it in the new situation of Covid 19, in application of disrespect to agents in their regulation of confinement. As in this case, we know that the Clamp Law will be used to hinder any protest, and that with the crisis of Covid 19, these will multiply, so it will be very useful to them.
A similar situation is occurring in Australia, where 434 Aborigines have died in police custody since 1991, as we reported in A Planeta. These deaths are yet another of this people’s denunciations of the genocide they have suffered since colonisation and which still continues. In their case, the discrimination is even more evident, because the aboriginal peoples, with 798,365 people, only account for 3.3% of the Australian population (2016 data).
South Africa is another country struggling with systemic racism, which after years after the end of apartheid in 1994, seems to remain. But there is now the contradiction that the police force is predominantly black, and abuses a predominantly black citizenship. Between 2012 and 2019, 80 complaints of police brutality were filed, 10 of them related to deaths. One person dies every day at the hands of the police in South Africa. Racism is evident in the actions, in the violence of the police.
From the deaths by the police, the one of Nathaniel Julies “Lockies” in the Eldorado Park ghetto on August 26 was the one that triggered protests and barricades. Julies was black, 16 years old and had Down syndrome. The South African Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) has been investigating the killing of dozens of children by police since 2012, concluding that almost none of these cases have been convicted neither.
But if we think that Floyd’s death was an isolated case we are wrong. In the three months following his death, from 26 May to 31 August, the Washington Post counted 288 people killed by US police. So far this year the figure is tragic, with 826 people killed by US police in 2020. A real pandemic.
In the case of Floyd the reason for the protests was the brutality of his death and that there were images. And undoubtedly the fact that he was of African descent, because if we count 13.4% of the population of the United States, people of African descent account for 20% of those killed by the police, so discrimination is evident. They are three times more likely to be killed by the police than Euro-descendants. Again, the immunity of the police from such genocide is insulting to the population, as 98.3% of the murders committed by the police between 2013 and 2020 did not result in any punishment for the offenders.
In this sense, we find that it is no longer only the excessive violence of the police against the population (or sectors of it) but also of the judiciary, which protects and legitimizes it. As in the case of Chile. Or as in the case of Brazil, the government itself, the political sector that encourages it.
Related to this, on 23 September the jury acquitted the officers charged with the shooting of the black medical worker Breonna Taylor on 13 March in Louisville (USA). This case also provoked the rise of major demonstrations in the spring and summer, and again now with this decision, lasting for over three days.
In addition to these injustices, there is now the persecution of the demonstrators of these months against the racist police brutality. Many activists, again most of them being of African descent, are facing ridiculous criminal charges such as “inciting a riot” or even “attempted terrorism” for things that have not even involved damage to property, when their only crime was just to organize and protest in different cities.
Another case of institutional racism is the continuing hunger strike of Dannielle Brown, now 94 days (5 October), an Afro-descendant woman whose son died from a window at the University of Pittsburgh, and who is demanding clarification of his death.
In this context, and in light of the protests and riots caused by Floyd’s murder, we also recall that the city of Minneapolis itself proposed to disband the police, with
the vote of nine of the members of the City Council out of 13. It may seem like a decision resulting from the heat of the events, from the flames from the police station, but it is not unreasonable if we take into account the tragic numbers of deaths caused by fellow citizens who we pay to actually protect us, and the economic consequences that come with so much pain.