We’ve seen this before: massive protests across the county in opposition to police brutality against Black Americans. Unfortunately, we have also seen these protests peak and burn out before any major legislative changes were made. The protests against the murder of George Floyd cannot end in two or three weeks; they must continue until Washington takes action.
To make this happen, the protests have to continue indefinitely, and the movement must also make clear demands. Achieving both of these will not be easy, but if the protests continue while no policy demands are made, they will ultimately fail. A legislative platform needs to be communicated en masse to motivate people to continue protesting. Without clear goals, there is no “winning,” and the movement will struggle to maintain its current level of mobilization.
A set of policy demands need to be articulated, and millions of Americans need to protest every week until they are met. Similarly, millions of people need to continue protesting. If not, Washington politicians will not understand the gravity of the situation. The movements in opposition to the police murder of Michael Brown, the not-guilty verdict for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, and many others failed in this respect.
What policy demands should be made? The first is a federal law mandating all police officers wear a body camera and a weapon-mounted camera. This is a camera mounted on all weapons, that turns on once that gun is drawn. Such footage would give investigators two different angles per officer. Attempting to block the view of a camera would be a felony offense.
The second policy demand applies to those investigators. The “Blue wall of silence” is a pact between many police officers to not report on actions of misconduct by their colleagues. It is essentially a code not to snitch. This has brought many to question whether Derrick Chauvins actions against Floyd would have been reported if not filmed by civilians.
To make matters worse, local prosecutors rely on police departments to gather evidence and testimony required to prosecute suspected criminals. In an officer investigation, the police need to bring evidence and testimony against one of their own. The police essentially “self-investigate” officers suspected of breaking the law. This is a massive conflict of interest.
Therefore, an independent Special Prosecutor’s Office must be established by federal mandate in all 50 states. This office would independently investigate all cases of police violence. To make these demands a reality, however, the mass protests will have to continue until the legislation is enacted.
The Yellow Vest Protests in France are an ideal example of legislation being passed due to continued resilience. The protest movement began in October 2018 over a plethora of issues: rising fuel prices, austerity measures, a low minimum wage, and overall discontent with the political establishment. Just like America’s recent events, these protests were intense, resulting in millions of Euros in damages. The Yellow Vests did not just protest for two or three weeks, but until their demands were met. In December 2018, after more than two months of continuous protesting, French President Emmanuel Macron caved to the movement’s demands. He announced plans to increase the minimum wage, not implement a new fuel tax, and cancel a tax increase on retirees.
We can learn something from the French. Many Americans will lose motivation to protest if no policy demands are communicated. With the two aforementioned policies, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This will motivate those that are privileged to continue spending their weekends at a protest, rather than relaxing with friends or hanging out at home. Many Americans are simply not affected by police brutality, meaning millions of people need to continue protesting something that does not actively impact them.
If this is successful and Washington meets the demands, Americans will see for the first time in decades that mass mobilization can actually bring about real change. If it can be done in terms of police brutality, it can be done for health care, public education, the environment, and other pressing societal issues. The George Floyd protests can be the catalyst to real change in America, but like the Yellow Vests, the mobilization must continue until legislation is signed into law.