US: A Police Killing Epidemic

A new episode of police brutality, the death of young African-American Freddie Gray, a week after suffering severe physical abuse at the hands of Baltimore police, has had this Maryland city in a state of upheaval for the past 10 days. The protests have steadily grown and turned violent on Tuesday after the young man’s funeral. With two dozen injured police officers, over 200 people arrested, burned buildings and looted shops, local and state authorities deployed the National Guard and imposed a widespread curfew on the city, which means that anyone seen in the streets at night will be arrested, unless it is a medical emergency or they are going to a center of night work.

What is happening in Baltimore is only the most recent chapter in the racist violence that characterizes a large part of the U.S. police forces and which, in recent months and years, has resulted in homicides that, as a rule, remain unpunished. As summarized in this very same space on April 9, in the past year only, there have been 10 police killings in different states, whose victims were seven black men and three Mexicans. The most prominent case, because of the media and the consequences of violent confrontations, was the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August.

In every case, those killed were unarmed and did not represent a relevant threat to their killers, and as a norm, public safety corporations, when it was not the local and state authorities, sought to cover up and protect the murderers. Moreover, it is impossible to ignore the racist and class-biased pattern that has occurred in all the cases.

The exasperation of black communities has resulted in further outbreaks of violence and even aggression against police officers. However, despite the evident human rights crisis that the U.S. is experiencing, neither the president — the first African-American in office — nor the political class seem to be aware of the gravity of the situation. In this structural violence of police forces against the poorest sectors, cultural, judicial, social and economic factors converge that must be faced and eradicated sooner rather than later. Otherwise, there is the risk that these outbreaks of violence, isolated until now, will become widespread and result in situations of lawlessness. The U.S. leaders and lawmakers should address what is happening in their own house first and preach less about the failures of individual rights in other countries.

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