There has been a spontaneous and righteous outpouring of anger against the murder of George Floyd in recent days. Many of these protests are led by young people from the BAME community, who are rarely heard or listened to by the political establishment here. Whilst defending their right to be heard, we are strongly urging organisers to take every precaution possible to ensure social distancing, and for all those attending these protests to adhere to medical guidelines by staying two metres apart. Masks should be worn, events in small or confined spaces should be avoided, and anyone who is sick or at risk should refrain from attendance by staying at home. Social organising requires social distancing.
We are concerned, however, with the ill-advised and imbalanced joint intervention of the Justice Minister and the Chief Constable into this situation. They warn about protests organised out in the open, but where was this forthright attitude when outbreaks of cornovirus were spreading in the meat packing industry? Where were the arrests, the prosecutions, over the criminal negligence by employers in some care homes? How many employers have been charged for breaching social distancing guidelines? And given the fact that the response by the state to these issues has been paltry, are the Black Lives Matters protestors not justified in suggesting that a hypocrisy is at work.
The Chief Constable must consider the intervention of the PSNI into this situation very carefully, as should the Justice Minister. He condemns the murder of George Floyd. But he is no doubt aware that people in the paid employment of his own force committed murder in the past and have never been prosecuted. He is no doubt aware too, that much of the militarised policing that we are witnessing in the US had its origins here. The plastic bullets being fired against protestors were invented here, and the PSNI still defends their use today. The Northern state has long been a net exporter in the means and methods of state violence, selling their expertise to police forces around the world including in the US. For that reason, the state cannot claim to be a neutral arbitrator as people rise against injustice.
People Before Profit take very seriously the need to maintain social distancing during this pandemic. Covid-19 has not gone away, and we must make every effort to adhere to medical guidelines. But the solution in this situation is not to be found in heavy handed intervention by politicians or a tainted police force, but instead by working with those who are organising on this issue to ensure social distancing is maintained. If the George Floyd murder taught us anything, then it is surely that politicians and government officials must sit up and listen. The Justice Minister and the PSNI have failed in that regard.