A lesson from the ongoing US protests

The American people need to be commended for exercising their democratic rights. They saw a clear case of abuse of authority in the death of black man George Floyd who died when a white cop pinned his knee on his neck and, in protest, spilled out into the streets in the thousands all across the United States demanding justice.

Black, white, brown — people of all colours — stormed the streets. Sure there was looting and some burning. Not that such actions should be condoned but the frustrations of the people who committed them can be understood. These are the poorer, frustrated, discriminated against lot who found in these protests a reason to vent against a system which sees them as invisible at best and useless at worse.

They took to the streets in a united effort seek redress for Floyd and called attention to the racism and discrimination they suffer at the hands of those in authority.

They wanted justice. And, justice they got. The four Minneapolis cops involved in Floyd’s death have all been charged in court. Derek Chauvin, the cop who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao have been charged with aiding and abetting in a manslaughter.

Some people may see these street protests as America burning. But, I see it as a healthy outlet for pent-up frustrations which is a human right and which was largely well managed by the authorities. There were some instances of police brutality but generally, the protesters were allowed to protest. The people exercised their right to demonstrate and got results.

The anger of the people was recognised as the video of Chauvin without blinking an eyelid pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck went viral. The whole world witnessed the murder in the viral video. The leaders had no choice but to do the right thing. They charged Chauvin with murder and charged the three other cops as well.

What is commendable is the speed at which they addressed the issue. The people protested loudly and the leaders were quick to listen and respond. Within days, the errant cops were charged.

Here in Malaysia, a group of usurpers have been running the government for three months without legitimacy. These unelected leaders insist on being the government despite appeals and criticisms. They have no authority to govern but are doing all sorts of questionable deeds stubbornly and shamelessly to hold on to the reins of power. One main reason why they can do so is because the people are mostly tolerating it.

If the people don’t raise a stink over the abuse of power, leaders don’t feel the need to listen. The people must raise a ruckus to get leaders to listen. It is a lesson we can learn from the recent American protests.

My intention is not to idealize the Floyd protests but to point out that in a democracy people have the right to protest and for leaders to heed them if they want to remain in their positions.

In Malaysia, we are aware that it is the bread and butter issues that move the majority of the people and they can be pacified by putting a little cash in their hands. If these people had good leaders who communicate to them the facts of the issues rather than giving cash to maintain their support, more people will see the abuse of powers of their leaders.

It’s time a chorus of dissent is raised at people in authority like Chauvin who in plain sight committed a crime without a blight of conscience. He was charged in court. We should ensure our leaders, too, don’t get off the hook without facing the consequences.

For that to happen, more and more people should start to protest!



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