Why are peaceful protesters arrested in America

Demos in the USA: This is how an ARD correspondent sees the protests

Interview as of June 2, 2020 .: Rebecca K├╝sters

After the death of the African-American George Floyd, the situation escalated. Torben Ostermann from Bremen worked in the USA until recently and gives his opinion.

Whether Minneapolis, New York or Washington: Thousands of people are currently demonstrating against police violence and racism in numerous US cities. The protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, an African-American in Minneapolis. A video shows a police officer pushing his knee back on his neck for several minutes. Shortly afterwards, the 46-year-old died in a hospital.

Radio Bremen employee Torben Ostermann reported from Washington for a year for ARD and received many insights into the lives of Americans. Now he is back at home and spoke to Buten un about the situation in the USA.

Mr. Ostermann, what was your first impression when you saw the video?
I was shocked when I saw that. Unfortunately, such things happen very regularly. There are cases like this almost every week in the United States. But most of the time they are not documented that way, there is usually no one filming them. The fact that it has now led to these protests around the world is also due to the fact that this incident was filmed.
Are there other reasons why the protests have reached this level?
There are a few other things that come together. Afro-Americans, especially in times of Corona, notice that it is they, above all, who die from it. Afro-Americans are proportionally more affected by this, also by the economic consequences. This difference in concern between blacks and whites acts like a magnifying glass and makes matters bigger than it would be if only this Minneaopolis incident had occurred. And then, on top of the general tension and uncertainty, there is structural racism and police violence.
How has the mood changed in the US since the video was released?
It's really very interesting. The USA is affected by the corona pandemic like no other country. And the rules were very strict too. Where I lived, in Washington, there is actually still a "stay at home order". So people were encouraged to really only go out when they have to. And the city was totally empty, there were hardly any people on the streets. And now a few days later to see how thousands come together and demonstrate, that's really amazing. I hardly recognize the city.
How did you perceive the criticized racism in everyday life?
I have spoken to African Americans many times and done a report on police violence in Chicago. And what's really frightening is that every African-American I've met has had bad or very bad experiences with the police. The children are already being taught: If blue lights appear behind you and the police are behind you, then don't run away. Put your hands up, apologize. This is really a community trauma: The fear of the police.
How is it that these conflicts developed this way in the USA - and not here in Germany, for example?
I believe that the US police are generally more confrontational. For example, this has to do with the fact that American police officers always assume that their counterpart is armed. If, for example, there is a check in the car and the driver reaches for the glove compartment to take another handkerchief, for example. Then you can assume that the police will shoot.

Then, of course, there is the repercussions of decades of oppression - slavery, civil rights that have only gradually been granted to Afro-Americans. The relationship of trust between the population and the state has been shattered by this original sin of slavery.
Can the current protests help to improve the situation?
I believe that it is basically a good thing that there is this discussion of the subject. But of course: Every video that shows the brutality or brutal police operations naturally also reinforces this already existing thought pattern: The police are not our friends and helpers, but the police are our opponents.
But I think, in principle, the discussion on this topic that is taking place again is something positive. The question, of course, is what is left of it in the end. Unfortunately, these discussions often go away as quickly as they came. Although I am not entirely sure in this case, since the current protests have now - according to historians - reached a historical dimension.

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This topic in the program: Tagesschau, Das Erste, June 1, 2020, 8:00 p.m.