Black Lives Matter: back in the streets after Covid-19

Employment and Social Affairs

Soon after the end of lockdown measures, mass protests are ongoing all over the world. The United States of America are the epicenter of several anti-racism rallies, exploded after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and reinforced after the killing of Rayshard Brooks shot by the Us police in Atlanta.

Their deaths, along with other such cases, has sparked both peaceful and violent protests against racism and police brutality in the US and around the globe these weeks. Protests are mounting also in Europe and all over the globe: France and United Kingdom, but also New Zeland and Brasil, in many countries the police have to deal with rallies that in some cased turned violent. In many States there are growing calls for steps to address institutional discrimination.

On the other hand, in many States police officers staged a street protest to complain at what they see the unfair criticism and pressure they had to endure during recent anti-racism demonstrations. The outrage generated by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month has resonated in France, especially in deprived city suburbs where rights groups say that accusations of brutal treatment by French police of residents of often immigrant background remain largely unaddressed.

The European Union has highlighted the importance of this issue. “We relentlessly need to fight racism and discrimination: visible discrimination, of course. But also, more subtle racism and discrimination – our unconscious biases”, said the Ursula von der Leyen, Eu Commission President. Von der Leyen called for joining forces at all levels to build a Europe that was more equal, more humane, and fairer. “I want to get to the bottom of these questions”, she said, announcing that the Commission would hold a structured debate on racism in the College, and study its roots.

The last report published by ENAR (European Network against racism) in 2019 looking at race-motivated crime and institutional racism highlighted that such offences are on the rise in Europe and too often go unreported. “For victims of racially motivated crimes, police mistreatment, abuse and brutal violence are a determining factor in a victim’s decision to not report crimes to the police,” the ENAR report says.

Rates of racial harassment toward black people varied by EU member state, according to the FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency) survey. In the UK, no more EU member State but still Europe, 21% of respondents said they experienced racial harassment; while in Finland the rate was 63%. In Germany, 48% of respondents said they had experienced racial harassment.

According to the form of racial harassment, the most common one must deal with non-verbal cues (22%), followed by offensive or threatening comments (21%) and threats of violence (8%). The survey found that only 14% of the most recent incidents of racial harassment were reported to police, meaning a majority of racist incidents went unreported. When it comes to racial profiling by police, 24% of respondents said they were stopped by police in the last five years, including 11% in the last 12 months. Of those stopped within the last year, 44% believe the last time they were stopped by police was racially motivated.

That belief was most prominent among respondents in Italy (70%) and Austria (63%) and lowest in Finland (18%). Racism, together with climate change, seems to be in these difficult days – that hopefully will mark the end of Covid-19 pandemic – one of the main popular theme to work on for future generations. Many young are now back in the streets to defend these ideas, and politicians should not ignore their stance.

The United States are particularly involved in this issue, because of presidential elections at the end of 2020. But also, the EU should not underestimate this crucial issue, where it could concretely make the difference against populism and nationalism.


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