Respect for authority must be earned

"From Minneapolis to Manila"

There is a law—as the government has been wont to remind us—that says it is a crime to disobey a person in authority. This law, in fact, has been used to enforce quarantine restrictions in the last two months and a half.

But the inhuman killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American father of two, on the streets of Minneapolis, by a white police officer.

Footage of the arrest on May 25 showed the policeman, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck while he was pinned, face down to the pavement, already in handcuffs.

Witnesses said Floyd appeared distressed, and a number of them recorded the arrest on their mobile phones and shared them on social media, where the videos quickly spread.

Floyd was restrained by officers, while Chauvin placed his left knee between his head and neck.

"I can't breathe," Mr Floyd said repeatedly, pleading for his mother and begging "please, please, please."

For eight minutes and 46 seconds, Chauvin kept his knee on Mr Floyd's neck, the prosecutors' report says, even after he became non-responsive about six minutes into the takedown.

Bystanders urged the officers to check his pulse, and one of the other policemen did so, but said he “couldn’t find one.”

Only two minutes later did Chauvin remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. Floyd was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

Astoundingly, no arrests were made and no charges were filed until four days after the killing, that had by then been seen by millions on social media. The slow reaction time by the authorities only fueled the outrage over Floyd’s extrajudicial execution by a law enforcement official.

That outrage sparked street protests not only in Minneapolis, but in cities across the United States. Some of these turned violent, with angry protesters burning buildings and cars, throwing rocks and bottles at the police, and looting stores.

A curfew was declared in several of the cities as protests entered their sixth day after Floyd’s killing, but police were hard pressed to enforce them, given the level of anger that people felt toward the police.

The strong reaction in US cities clearly shows the deep mistrust that people—particularly those of color—have for the police.

Closer to home, the distrust has been fueled by countless scandals that have gone unpunished, incidents of unwarranted use of deadly force, and crystal-clear signals that the police are above the law they are supposed to uphold.

How can we respect that? Whether you are in Minneapolis or in Manila, respect for authority must be earned. Is it any wonder, given our dismal track record, that we no longer trust the police?

Topics: Editorial , George Floyd , African American , Minneapolis , police
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