Speaking the 'language of the unheard' is our only option

May 31 in East Village, Manhattan. Photo: Edward Leavy Jr

“(A) riot is the language of the unheard…”
Dr Martin Luther King

“Yeah, you’re right — we should protect our Second Amendment rights,
Because in a second a dirty cop could kick our door in at night.
A tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.”

LL Cool J

It’s an uncomfortable and disorienting time to be alive. A contradictory time of simultaneous reaction and revolt during which distinctions between the left and right can seem to both blur and sharpen. It’s a time when Twitter alerts read “Peaceful protesters dispersed with tear-gas outside White House” and writers are unsure if they have space to mention it in the 600 word-limit that seemed much longer last week.

Yesterday, United States President Donald Trump announced that Antifa would be listed as a terrorist organisation. In other words, being a member of a group that literally means “anti-fascist” will get you the Qasem Soleimani treatment.

The ghoulish announcement is in theme with his recent tweets — “You start lootin’, we start shootin” is still fresh in the mind — all seemingly designed to incite speculation that the use of tear-gas on peaceful protesters will soon seem quaint.

On June 2, CNN announced that an independent autopsy had, unsurprisingly, concluded George Floyd was murdered on May 25 by Derek Chauvin, a police officer with a noted passion for shooting and killing unarmed ethnic minorities.

The righteous public uprising of the last seven days in the US has been something akin to the 1992 Los Angeles “riots” that took place after no police officers were charged with wrongdoing in the beating of Rodney King.

Unlike in 1992, the Minneapolis Police Department has admitted failure of duty and charged Chauvin with third-degree murder, as many advocating a return to “civil order” point out.

The obvious problem is that, since 1992, things have gotten worse.

George Floyd, like thousands of others, is still dead. After every peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, another human is killed by police officers who rarely see any consequences for taking a life, and do so with malice, forethought and sometimes pleasure.

The top trainer of police tactics in the US — tactics emulated the world over including in Australia — is Dave Grossman, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. He runs seminars for security guards, firearm-hobbyists and anybody with $90, aimed at preparing attendees to proudly draw down on their nemesis and spray the room without hesitation or remorse. “Are you prepared to take a life?,” Grossman asks the crowd during his speeches. “If the answer is no, you should not even own a gun.”

Why do they think decking a steroid-enthusiast out with Kevlar, a bullet-hose and permission to use it if and when they feel anxious will result in anything but them doing just that?

Then again, Geroge Floyd wasn’t killed by a gun. Nor was David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man killed in Long Bay jail in 2015 under circumstances too similar to ignore.

Like Floyd, Dungay's last words to the multiple corrections officers holding him down were “I can’t breathe”. One replied: “If you can talk, you can breathe”. His body was cuffed to a hospital bed for some time before attention was given to him.

I attended one demonstration before the inquest into his death — an inquest that yielded no further action. The demonstration was small. Dungay’s family and friends marched peacefully and wept.

On June 1, Dungay’s nephew Paul Francis, in an interview with ABC News, said: “We need to be just as outraged with what’s going on in our own backyard.” This is important.

Francis' voice, Dungay’s voice, all the voices of the unheard must be listened to. Otherwise, speaking in the language of the unheard is the only option.

[An “I Can’t Breathe”: Justice for George Floyd and David Dungay vigil is being organised in Sydney for June 6 at 3pm at Lee Street, Chippendale, co-hosted by the Indigenous Social Justice Association, the Anticolonial Asian Alliance and ACAR – USYD Autonomous Collective Against Racism.]

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