George Floyd died in Minneapolis on the 25th May 2020 after he was handcuffed and restrained face down on the ground whilst a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. His death, as well as the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, has sparked a wave of protests across the USA under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
The President of the United States of America has called for protesters to be ‘dominated’ by the police and National Guard, footage has shown peaceful protesters being tear gassed and journalists attacked whilst reporting on the protests, and Amnesty International has appealed for an end to the ‘excessive’ militarised response to the protests.
We are deeply concerned by the treatment of American citizens at the behest of the government, and by the open attacks on clearly identified journalists reporting on the protests. This is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and silence free speech and fair reporting – cornerstones of an open democracy.
Humanism is rooted in a belief in and commitment to equality and social justice for all, and we support every American fighting for this through the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and through the work of our American colleagues, The American Humanist Association. Please see below to read the statement released by the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association.
In communities across our land, Americans have been expressing their anger and frustration at the systemic racism that pervades our society and manifests itself in police brutality against African Americans, brutality that all too frequently has fatal consequences.
Leaders of both the left and the right are quick to invoke the rule of law to condemn violence on the streets. But a nation where the President is allowed to flout the rule of law without consequence while the most marginalized are held disproportionately to account is a nation that is on its way to being a democracy in name only. Widely documented physical attacks by police during the last few days on journalists covering the protests are yet another sign of the dangers that our democracy faces when leaders prioritize dividing Americans and consolidating their grip on power over safeguarding human rights.
As Martin Luther King said in his Other America speech at Stanford in 1967:
“.. [A] riot is the language of the unheard. … And what is it that America has failed to hear? … it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. … Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
Humanism and social justice go hand in hand. We call on all humanists and all Americans to do everything in their power to stand and fight the systemic racism in American society and the police brutality that is engendered by that systemic racism.
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