The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him has sparked widespread demonstrations both in the US but also in other countries against police brutality and in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement. The reaction of Trump to the demonstrations, saying he’d send in the National Guard, has shocked although not necessarily surprised. Perhaps the most ludicrous but also telling image of the week was seeing lights dowsed on the White House knowing that Trump was cowering in a bunker beneath the building.
Restrictions due to the COVID lockdown have severely curtailed demonstrations and, although many countries are moving out of lockdown, both the US and the UK, amongst others, have been incapable of shaking off the virus. Despite the risks and warnings of health experts, the population has been so angered and revolted by violence against people of colour that massive crowds have formed to protest peacefully. The reaction of many of those in power has been to belittle demonstrators or to diabolise their actions, pointing to the violence of a limited number of agitators. Those politicians who have realised they can’t simply dismiss the demonstrations are opting for cosmetic reforms or showy gestures of solidarity. But it is becoming clear that superficial reforms will not be enough as the violence of the police and other institutions toward people of colour is deeply rooted in the fabric of society.
The quiet, bucolic life in a tiny Swiss village appears strangely detached from the turmoil in the rest of the world. Even during the COVID crisis we were sheltered from the worst. No one I know in the village has been ill and wide expanses of country-side are close at hand. Long walks through fields and forests have brought a feeling of freedom, despite the lockdown.