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Police violence, racial tensions, presidential 2020: what is the political impact of the death of George Floyd?

Homicide of a black American by white police in Minneapolis has reopened ill-healed wounds in the United States. So much so that riots of rare violence broke out. What will be the consequences for the 2020 presidential election, when the country is still entangled in the coronavirus crisis?

« Everyone is suffering, that’s why it all happens. I’m tired of seeing black men die, « said George Floyd’s brother on CNN, before calling for calm: » I want people to be peaceful, but I can’t force them. is hard. »

This has almost become a constant in the United States: in each electoral cycle, even if it also happens outside of them, the racial tensions inherited from centuries of slavery resurface. This time, it was the death of George Floyd, a black man in his forties, suffocated under the weight of white police, who rekindled racial tensions across the Atlantic. For two days, the city of Minneapolis has been the scene of clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators, seeking answers, looting and other forms of violence .   

« It is a tragic reminder that this is not an isolated incident, but that it is part of a cycle of systematic injustice that still exists in our country, » 

indignant Joe Biden, former vice-president. American and Democratic presidential candidate for November.

The video, widely relayed on social networks, reminded all of America, with a disturbing similarity, of the homicide of Eric Garner, a black American, death suffocated at the hands of white police officers by saying the same words as George Floyd May 25, 2020: « I can’t breathe ». The mass sharing of this arrest filmed by residents has, as in 2014, largely contributed to creating collective excitement. And this, both in the United States and abroad. The Turkish President even went there with his tweet, to condemn the death of George Floyd.

 “The racist and fascist approach that led to the death of George Floyd in the American city of Minneapolis as a result of torture not only deeply saddened us all, but also became one of the most painful manifestations of the ‘unfair order we oppose around the world.’

A racially, politically and economically divided United States

Beyond the anecdotal nature of the tweet, it attests to the proportions taken by this case. A fundraiser was organized to help the family of the deceased, raising more than $ 1.5 million in just a few days. The UN, through its High Commissioner for Human Rights, has also taken a stand on the issue:

« It is the latest in a long line of murders of unarmed African-Americans committed by American police officers » and citizens, regretted Michelle Bachelet in a press release, before adding « American authorities must take action serious about ending these murders, and ensuring that justice is done when they happen. ”

In fact, each time a black person dies at the hands of a white police officer, a relatively frequent occurrence, the rumble within the African-American community increases in intensity. This is evidenced by the enthusiasm around the “Black lives matter” movement. Eight years of Obama’s presidency have not helped ease this sense of injustice, any more than nearly four years of Trump’s tenure.

Racial issues are still very sensitive in the United States and the plagues of slavery, the American « original sin », have never completely healed in the « land of free men ». The coronavirus crisis is one example among others that highlights these divisions that are still present , as Matthew Knott recalls in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald, of which he is the North American correspondent:

« The pandemic has exacerbated the existing racial inequalities in the country: black Americans have died in disproportionate numbers as a result of the Covid-19 and have been most affected by the economic collapse. 

And now, Floyd’s death is the latest apparent example of police brutality that started the Black Lives Matter movement seven years ago. ”

With the approach of a presidential election which promises to be electric in November, what political consequences can this sequence have? The one who could suffer more from this political crisis is certainly President Trump. As the latter rushed towards re-election at the beginning of the year, he had to manage a health crisis which killed more than 100,000 people in three months, record unemployment which reached 40 million job seekers, thousands of ‘notices of default are sent by tenants who can no longer make ends meet and now riots are waking up old demons and gaining intensity.

Against all odds, Donald Trump still as popular

However, polls on the popularity of Donald Trump have shown that, despite the crises and attacks of his political opponents, he has so far had a fierce ability to maintain a high level of popularity , in particular thanks to an ultra-solid electoral base. . The fact remains that it seems almost impossible to get through such political storms without leaving a few feathers, even if your name is Donald Trump. But can that win Joe Biden, an old dinosaur from the Democratic establishment against the Republican businessman? Nothing is less sure. Especially when we look at the participation rates of minorities, goodwill of the Democratic Party, in the presidential elections, which are much lower to those of the white population.

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