8.46: George Floyd.  When that graphic first appeared there were some of us who immediately feared the worst, an American sprinter named George Floyd had broken the 100 metre world record of our beloved Usain Bolt. How could that happen? That record was supposed to last a lifetime, it must have been done with special (illegal) footwear, and at altitude. But, also, during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Must be fake news.

A quick check brought out the facts, ‘8.46: George Floyd’ indicated the on-camera torture and murder of an unarmed black American, in hand cuffs begging for his life, while onlookers pointed out his distress and pleas to an unresponsive group of Minneapolis policemen who actively participated in the taped and recorded last 8 minutes and 40 seconds of the life of a fellow human being! Revulsion, anger, frustration and then, tears.

The “watcher” was helpless. Unable to do anything but protest, march and call upon “the authorities” to DO SOMETHING. From as far back as the beating of another black American, Rodney King, at the hands of the police in California, many years ago, revulsion, anger, frustration followed  by tears, protests and marching have done very little to change the reality of the “crime” of being black in America. Of course, the “process” will be followed, charges will be laid against the offenders/assailants, a trial, guilty or not guilty verdict, and eventually, back to the status quo.

Another year, another murder, another protest and march, and the cycle continues.

Minor changes, a few convictions, but eventually, Black Lives just don’t matter. This time, however, there seems to be a difference in how America and indeed the world have responded to the 8.46 minutes of murder on video. Maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.

The effect of weeks of “lockdown”, loss of jobs/revenue and increasing frustration with an administration that seems to be oblivious to the agony facing its citizens, seems to have fuelled the persistence of the affected and their allies (white people) to the extent that, at last, change in how members of the security forces respond to members of the black community, with apparent impunity, will result in effective reform of police forces in all 50 states of America.

But what about us? What about Jamaica? There was a “demonstration/march of sorts here at home more than a week after the now infamous 8.46 minutes in Minneapolis.  But, strangely, no protest, demonstration of similar cases of obvious police/army excess when confronted with BLACK Jamaicans of poor economic circumstances. Whenever these “incidents” occur, there is the now mandatory blocking of the street by the bystanders/witnesses followed by the investigation by INDECOM, seemingly without the support of the hierarchy of the security forces, charges, (sometimes) and a trial that  goes nowhere.

The death of a disabled resident of August Town while lying in her bed, allegedly at the hands of security personnel searching for wanted men, and the photograph of another Jamaican, Noel Chambers, whose lifeless, emaciated body (shades of Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany after the liberation of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust) who languished in jail for 40 years without trial, resulted in the usual howls of protest, editorials and grist for radio talk shows.  But marches and demonstrations — no. 

There is no doubt that security forces around the world need reform and the “regular” marches and protests after cases are exposed can help… those abroad. But my problem is focused right here at home. Not even video evidence of security wrong doing seem to make little impact on the reality of life for the poor black Jamaican. Of course, there is the mandatory wringing of hands and pledges to “do something” by those with the power to reform the army and police, but in the end, nothing, until another “expose” by INDECOM, whistleblowers or even eyewitnesses.

The lack of the promised body cameras for our security forces despite gifts of cameras and “the purchase” of hundreds is just another notch in the malaise of those who can accelerate the promised reform of the force but who, for reasons that cry out for investigation, do nothing. Will “change” ever come to Jamaica? You, reader, will determine the answer.

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