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As world watches George Floyd trial, what makes one death more important that another?

All lives are not equal

By Ricky Browne

An American policeman kneeled upon a young man restraining him until he was dead — the whole thing caught on video — and nobody cared.

“You’re gonna kill me!” the victim yelled moments before his death, as video showed him being pinned to the ground by police, his hands cuffed behind his back. “Help me!”

But when he died there were no local protests over policing that grew into mass demonstrations across the world. Privately held businesses were not lit on fire and looted. Governments and state authorities didn’t look into themselves to see if something was amiss and could be repaired.

Tony Timpa died under the knee of a Dallas policeman

The man in question was Tony Timpa, and he died in Dallas, Texas in 2016 when a policeman kneeled upon his neck. Timba had actually called 911 himself, to tell them that he had schizophrenia and was off his meds, and needed help.

At first his death was ruled a homicide, but at the trial the case against the police officers was dismissed. The police officers were disciplined, and were back at work after a month.

A policeman kneels on Timpa’s back, moments before his death

Virtually nobody cared.

GEORGE FLOYD

Four years later, a very similar thing happened to George Floyd, when I policeman kneeled on his neck until he was dead. But the public reaction was very different.

George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman

The policeman who was caught on videotape kneeling on Floyd’s neck is now undergoing trial. If the man is not found guilty of at least manslaughter, many people expect a repeat of the type of violent demonstrations that took place last summer.

Whether or not a person can have a fair trial in such an environment is doubtful. Almost everyone has already made up their mind that this guy is guilty, before knowing all the evidence that will be presented by the defence.

Really, unless it can be proved that Floyd’s death was not caused by having a policeman kneel on his neck for a reported nine minutes, it is inconceivable that a jury will not deliver a guilty verdict.

A policeman kneels on George Floyd moments before his death

Meanwhile, the policemen who were involved in Timpa’s death roam free.

Why the big difference in treatment of the similar events. Could it be because Floyd was black on one hand, and Timba was white on the other?

THE DEATH OF AN ANGEL

Over in Myanmar – otherwise known as Burma – 19-year-old Angel was killed in a demonstration in the city of Mandalay on March 3. Angel, whose real name was Kyal Sin, was shot in the head as she protested the military take-over. She was wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Everything will be OK”, reminiscent of Bob Marley’s “Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be all right”. At least 38 other people were killed in Myanmar on that day.

Angel, on the day that she was shot in the head

No one outside of Myanmar seems to cares very much.

If the army had only killed Angel, it would be bad enough. But in fact  at least 38 people were killed in Myanmar that day. And it is believed that the Myanmar army may have killed as many 500 demonstrators since it seized power after the re-election of Ang Sung ‘s party in November 2020.

Mind you, if Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize  laureate — had taken any interest in protecting the lives of the Rohingya Muslim minority, maybe many more people would have cared about the state of democracy in Myanmar. But she didn’t care, and actually supported the military in their genocide of those people – and on the international stage.

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses judges of the International Court of Justice for the second day of three days of hearings in The Hague, Netherlands, in December defending the army’s genocide of the Rohingya people Photo: AP/Peter Dejong

This gave the military carte blanche to behave as they liked, forcing their will upon the Burmese people.

The UN estimates that more than 10,000 Rohingya people have been killed by the army in Myanmar – some of them by being tossed into fires. Men, women and children.

Rohingya children have not been spared the genocidal policies of the Burmese military

Heads of State, including US President Joe Biden, has spoken against the genocide and the coup, but have done little to address the situation.

The world has instead concentrated on the pandemic, and watches with great interest the trial of a man who killed one person, currently taking place in the US.

The Rohinga are a minority that people in the West are not overly concerned about. The state killing 10,000 of these people is not of great interest.

UYGHUR PEOPLE

Speaking of genocide, China has been killing, imprisoning and sterilising its own Muslim minority – the Uyghur people —  and the world has done nothing, except a few tut-tuts of disapproval.

Uyghur men imprisoned in concentration camp-like “reeducation camps” in China

The US, Canada and the Netherlands are among the countries that have accused China of committing Genocide. Other countries such as the UK and the EU have been more reluctant, with the UK saying instead that their treatment amounts to “appalling violations of the most basic human rights”.

Thousands of people may have been killed by China. As many as a million Uyghur people have been detained in the Chinese equivalent of concentration camps to be reeducated. And few people care. There have been no mass demonstrations anywhere in the world.

Not everyone is silent on the fate of the Uyghur people

People continue to buy cheap Chinese products, happy in the knowledge that they have saved themselves a few bucks, compared to what they would have spent on an alternative from another country.

That includes clothing, when it has now been reported that China has forced up to 500,000 Uyghur people to pick cotton – slavery.

But there are no massive demonstrations against the genocide of the Uyghur people. They belong to a minority group that many people don’t care about.

POLICE KILLINGS IN JAMAICA

Over in Jamaica, the police kill someone – a black man more often than not – more than 130 people per year. But who cares? Most of those killed are assumed to have been criminals, even though they never got the chance to go to trial. “Dem fi dead” – is the comment that you will hear many people say in defence of the police killings.

Jamaican police on patrol Photo: Reuters/Hans Deryk

It is OK for the black police force in a black country to kill as many black people as they like. The lives of black Jamaicans are of little interest to the world at large, and to Jamaicans in general — at least not if they are killed by the state. Though there are some killings which are protested, most are not. One of the loudest voice of protest is Amnesty International, which is ridiculed by many Jamaicans.

So, the death of Timpa, the death of Angel, the death of hundreds of Burmese people by the state, the death of hundreds of people at the hand of the Jamaican police, the death of hundreds possible thousands of Uyghur people in China by the state – all goes with little comment and even less action.

And the world holds its breath as the trial of Floyd continues.

As the Jamaican saying goes ”Jackass seh di worl’ nuh level”. Life’s not fair, and nor, it would seem, is death. 

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