New wave of protests: the role of police and athletes

The History of Black Protest in Sports | The New Yorker

Kenosha law enforcement action and North American sports community boycott

Following the death of George Floyd in May during his arrest in Minnesota, the August events – now in Wisconsin – led to a new round of protest in American society. In the small town of Kenosha, police officer Rasten Sheski fired seven shots in the back of African American Jacob Blake, who survived but was partially paralyzed. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Blake resisted arrest when police responded to a call from a woman who complained that her boyfriend had come to her home without permission. In the video of the episode, Blake walks away from the police and opens the driver’s door of the car, after which shots are fired. The Attorney General also said that the police found a knife on the floor of the car. However, the victim’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that his client did not carry a knife and did not threaten the police. Blake’s three children were reportedly in the car at the time of the shooting. The city of Kenosha soon became a hotbed of protests against police brutality and systemic racism shortly after high-profile footage..

«It is very strange that the police still continue to work according to the same scheme as they worked before the murder of George Floyd, says a journalist from Baltimore Glory Malamud live interactive discussion «Voices of America». – Everyone knows that police officers receive a lot of attention, especially how they treat black populations. The fact that this continues to happen when it is already clear what kind of reaction this will cause in society is very difficult for me personally to understand. This is all one big wave. I think when historians look at these events, they are unlikely to separate Floyd from Blake. This will be one big event».

However, a lawyer, private detective from Miami Andrey Stolbunov says the police have acted and will continue to act on instructions: «The entire population of America knows that if the police demand something from you, it is better to obey, raise your hands and enter into a dialogue, and not twitch, run away and try to grab unknown objects from the car. Therefore, I am not surprised why the police shoot again. They have developed methods, they have been taught this for decades, they will always do this. They simply cannot do otherwise. They won’t wait to figure out if it’s a pistol or not in the dark, for example, or if it’s something like a pistol. You can grab a bullet, they are in such a situation every day».

Answering the question of how 7 shots at an unarmed person can be explained at once, Stolbunov adds: «I received a license as an armed security guard and the instructions say that if you start shooting, then you are already shooting, that’s it. The point of no return has been passed. If a decision is made, and these are seconds, you either shoot or you don’t. If the decision is made to shoot, half of the clip is reflexively released, sometimes a whole one. Again, it depends on the situation. Sometimes it is difficult to stop, purely physically, even psychologically, so this is a human factor. You can’t say that a policeman – villain because he fired seven bullets, not two. Yes, then the police officer will be sent for a psychological examination, after which, perhaps, they will be fired, but that’s another story.».

Slava Malamud, in turn, notes the high probability that representatives of the African American population will die in interaction with the police, in contrast to white Americans, who often behave no less defiantly with the police..

«I teach high school in Baltimore. As you know, this is not the calmest city. The vast majority of my students – blacks, so I just know that my students are more likely to die in such a situation than students in the schools where my children study – in the suburbs with mostly white students. I know whites are killed too, but as a percentage, a black person is more likely to die., – says Malamud, – The question is that at some point, society crosses a certain threshold, after which it is simply impossible to live as before. It’s not even about George Floyd himself. It was simply the last straw that filled the huge cistern of blood. All this has been accumulating for years, even centuries. And it seems to me that this threshold has been passed at the present moment, as it was in the 60s, when it was finally possible to abolish apartheid in the South. And it seems to me that police reform is inevitable».

Among those who, after the incident in Kenosha, are even more active in calling for social justice and the fight against police brutality against the black population, – leading athletes from North American leagues led by the National Basketball Association (NBA), which President Trump has accused of being highly politicized. The vast majority of NBA players – African Americans. Moreover, a team from Wisconsin «Milwaukee Bucks» became the best at the end of the current regular season and it was its players who were the first to announce the decision to boycott their playoff match. After that, the league management decided to cancel all other matches of this and the next two playing days. Other professional leagues have followed suit, including the National Hockey League (NHL).

«I don’t understand why athletes cannot have the same right to speak up as everyone else., – says Slava Malamud, sportscaster who has covered NHL matches for many years. – I am not a supporter of argumentation at all «sport should be out of politics». Since its invention, sport has always been a part of politics and politics has been a part of sport. Hockey player last year «New York Rangers» Artemy Panarin criticized Putin. When he was also told that sports should be outside of politics, he replied that then politics should not be prying into sports. Also, keep in mind the fact that NBA basketball players, before they became multimillionaires and celebrities, were mostly ghetto guys. Many of them had similar situations and encounters with police officers who treated them quite differently from the white suspects. Most of them came from very criminal areas and did not become criminals, they were able to use their talent to break out into the people. But they have something to say about it, and they know much more about it than the NHL hockey players. In this regard, their voices matter, their voices matter.».

New wave of protests: the role of police and athletes

According to Andrey Stolbunov, the current situation with protests is overly politicized.

«Politics uses sports, like any other direction related to the massive involvement of people. Any politician gathers crowds, influence minds – his task. And if you manage to influence the minds through artists, singers, athletes, then this is a big plus for a politician. The more he attracts the celebrities behind whom the masses stand, the better. Of course, any athlete has the right to express his opinion, political as well. This is fine, but with one exception. – corruption. Corruption also exists in this area. If an athlete, having received a good amount, speaks in favor of the party that gave the money, it will, of course, not be very cool. In this case, it will already be a dirty policy. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this is exactly what is happening in American sports right now.», – says Stolbunov.

On one of the Kenosha protest nights following the Jacob Blake incident, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who had traveled from neighboring Illinois, shot two demonstrators with an assault rifle and wounded a third. The next day, he turned himself in to the police and was charged with six counts, including first-degree murder. One of his lawyers, Lin Wood, claims that Rittenhouse shot the demonstrators in self-defense. In addition, one person was gunned down in Portland, Oregon over the weekend as street protesters clashed in the city. «Black lives matter» and supporters of President Donald Trump, who arrived in the city in hundreds of trucks to participate in their own demonstration. According to eyewitness accounts, the deceased white man wore a hat with the emblem of the Portland far-right organization «Prayer of the Patriots», who previously clashed with protesters.

President Trump harshly criticized the mayors of Portland and Kenoshi for failing to stave off a new wave of unrest, visiting the city in Wisconsin this week against the wishes of State Governor Tony Ivers and Kenoshi Mayor John Antaramian. The mayor, whom Trump accused of defending radical anarchists, said that the timing was not right for the visit of the head of the White House. According to Antaramyan, the president would be better off waiting until next week, as well as his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who eventually visited Kenosha 2 days after Trump..

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