Boiling over: Protests against lethal force used by police against African Americans. Picture: AFP/Roberto Schmidt
Boiling over: Protests against lethal force used by police against African Americans. Picture: AFP/Roberto Schmidt

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.

Nine minutes.

Bystanders screamed for Chauvin to stop.

Floyd said: "I can’t breathe" and "I’m about to die".

Officially, he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Probably, he was already dead before he got there.

The video clip — a knee of a white cop on a black man’s neck — is a symbol of everything that is broken in the US.

Protests spread like wildfire across the land of the (not so) free, which is punch drunk from the coronavirus pandemic that has taken more than 100,000 US lives — a disproportionate number of whom are, thanks to long-entrenched health-care inequalities, so-called people of colour — and put 41-million Americans out of work as the economy implodes.

These are old wounds. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Rodney King beaten by white cops in LA. The Jim Crow laws. Young black men hanging from trees in the south. Activists buried in the Mississippi mud. Twenty African slaves brought ashore at Point Comfort, Virginia, by a Dutch trader in 1619, a year before the Mayflower and her freight of white Protestants.

Not that the president cares. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," he said on Twitter by way of leadership.

"Every civilisation carries the seeds of its own destruction, and the same cycle shows in them all," Mark Twain wrote. "The Republic is born, flourishes, decays into plutocracy, and is captured by the shoemaker whom the mercenaries and millionaires make into a king."

Swap "shoemaker" for "reality TV host" and the future is as clear as cars on fire, teargas, batons, rubber bullets and burning police stations.

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