WASHINGTON: A white police officer who shot dead a black man in Atlanta, Georgia, was summarily sacked and the city’s white police chief resigned, as racial tensions continued to torment America this weekend more than two weeks into the George Floyd murder protests that has spread across the country.
A Wendy’s fast food joint where the encounter took place was torched by an angry mob that blocked highways on Saturday in a city that has a majority black population — in a state that only last week was embroiled in an electoral fiasco with allegations of African-Americans being disenfranchised to facilitate a white-driven Republican victory.
Tensions are running high amid growing anger nationwide at America’s “killer cops” who employ deadly lethal force at the slightest provocation against black people, who are arrested, incarcerated, and killed by police in disproportionately larger numbers across the country. In Friday’s encounter, the victim, police first tried to arrest 27 year old Rayshard Brooks, when he was appeared to be intoxicated, after customers at a Wendy’s complained that he was asleep in his car and was blocking access to the drive-thru pick up window.
Body cam footage cited by the local media showed Brooks talking politely to two officers who arrive on the scene, claiming he has had only one and half daiquiris and is good to drive home, before they attempt to handcuff him after a breathalyzer test purportedly shows him to be intoxicated.
In the ensuing struggle, Brooks appears to swing punches at Officer Garrett Rolfe, grabs his taser and makes a run, at which point the officer unholsters his gun and shoots him. Brooks died later in a hospital.
Rolfe was sacked from the force, and Officer Devin Bronsan, who was also present at the scene, was placed on administrative duty, even as the city’s Police Chief Erika Shields resigned her post as the black-majority city simmered.
The militarization of the American police and the use of deadly force for minor offenses and at the slightest provocation has been a matter of concern among minorities who are at the receiving end of this and of civil liberties activists who have long cautioned against such hair-trigger responses by the heavily armed and well-funded police.
Last week, the LA Times reported that the city’s School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, “will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle” – a grotesque example of an over-armed and militarized police force.
Efforts to pare down the armaments and hold police accountable under the broad slogan of “defund the police” ringing through the protests has been countered by the ruling dispensation demonizing protestors as leftist radicals, anarchists, and terrorists trying to damage America.
“The Radical Left Democrats: First they try to take away your guns. Then they try to take away your police!” President Trump, whose birthday it is on Sunday, tweeted in defense of what critics say is his desire to run a militarized police state.
Amid nationwide moves by progressive local lawmakers to reform police, including banning strong-arm methods such as chokeholds that has killed numerous black men, Trump has defended the techniques, saying they may be required in some cases to contain criminals and should not be banned outright. He has continually advocated a stronger police and military with ever higher budgets.
Trump’s position, which political pundits say is aimed at consolidating white voters, came even as several polls show him trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by a huge double digit figures in a presidential election match-up, including losing the female and minority votes by record margins. But Democratic activists like Michael Moore are warning liberals not to be overconfident about defeating the President, arguing that this will only result in white males who “feel their grip on power fading” rallying behind Trump.