Alarm mixed with glee as world is glued to U.S. protest coverage
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday compared the “neck to knee” technique used to kill Floyd to the U.S. use sanctions against Iran.
Without referencing China’s well-documented discrimination against Uighurs and other minorities or the use of police force against protesters in Hong Kong over the past year, the Chinese government condemned the “serious problems” of police brutality and said “racial discrimination against minorities is a social ill in the United States.”
Ignoring the irony, authorities in Hong Kong today refused permission for an annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil June 4, for the first time in 30 years.
The Russian foreign ministry, meanwhile, took the chance Sunday to lecture the U.S. on media freedom after news outlets reported being targeted by police in the course of their work covering the protests in various cities. RIA Novosti correspondent Mikhail Turgiev was pepper sprayed in Minneapolis, prompting the ministry to express concern “about the increased number of police violence cases and unjustified detentions of journalists during their coverage of protests.” The ministry added: “we consider it unacceptable for US law enforcement officials to use special equipment — rubber bullets and tear gas — against media representatives after they present their press cards.”
Russia and China are also flooding social media with online propaganda targeting the ongoing unrest and violence in the United States, according to an analysis of recent Twitter posts by POLITICO.
Since May 30, government officials, state-backed media outlets and other Twitter users linked to either Beijing or Moscow have increasingly piggybacked on hashtags linked to Floyd, the Minnesota man whose death in police custody set off days of nationwide protests, to push divisive messages and criticize Washington’s handling of the unfolding crisis.
Other foreign actors are seeking to use the U.S. protests to advance their domestic agendas.
European Parliament Member Jordan Bardella, a top lieutenant far-right French party leader Marine Le Pen, tweeted Monday morning that left-wing policies in France would bring only, “Whites hunted in the streets, lynchings, arson and looting, is that your revolutionary dream for France?”
National leaders in democracies have mostly kept their counsel — respecting the long-held tradition of not commenting on the domestic politics of other nations. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday that Canadians are watching the American news with “shock and with horror,” adding that “racism is real. It’s in the United States but it’s also in Canada.”
Later, as thousands gathered to protest racial injustice in Toronto, Peter Mackay, a candidate to become Canada’s conservative opposition leader, was outspoken. “It has been profoundly sad and troubling,” he said, adding, “The violence is undeniable evidence of the ongoing legacy of racism, pain and deep divisions endured by too many, and unresolved for too long. Anti-black racism, or intolerance and hatred of any kind have no place in our societies — in the U.S., Canada or anywhere. We must all stand up against it, eradicate it.”
Protests against racism and police violence have cropped up in cities around the world in recent days. Thousands gathered in London on Sunday, with 23 people arrested in a gathering outside the U.S. embassy, according to the Metropolitan Police. Thousands also protested in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday, and in Amsterdam Monday.
International sports stars, including members of the Liverpool FC squad that plays in the English Premier League, are also showing solidarity with those in America calling for racial justice.
Even in New Zealand, which has enforced one of the strictest Covid-19 lockdowns, people gathered for a large march today in Auckland, calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to denounce the killing of Floyd.
“It’s painful to follow events in the U.S. these days,” Ambassador Boris Ruge of Germany, now the vice chair of the Munich Security Conference, wrote. “Having lived there for many years, I feel great affection for Americans and for America. No doubt in my mind that the ‘better angels’ will prevail.”
Some overseas commentators are laying the blame at the feet of the current U.S. president. Tom Switzer, head of Australian right-wing think thank the Center for Independent Studies, wrote in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that, “President Donald Trump, far from leading the healing, is fanning the flames of resentments and hatreds while the quiet voices of the thoughtful people of goodwill — the folks who want to build bridges — are in short supply.”
“Something more is going on here than resentment at police brutality — it is a crisis of confidence that goes beyond Trump — and it’s just not clear how Americans today can resolve their differences,” Switzer wrote.
In Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, there are worries about what comes next, as the U.S. heads to the polls later this year. There’s been heated debate about how to conduct the election amid the pandemic, with the president and his supporters circulating unfounded suggestions that mail-in voting is subject to significant fraud. One EU diplomat expressed concern to POLITICO about what Trump will do if he narrowly loses the election in November.“Will he accept going?”
A leading member of the European Parliament said that in addition to posing moral questions, the current turmoil has legal implications for the U.S.-EU relationship. Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch liberal politician, wrote on Medium that “Transatlantic relations cannot be business as usual,” saying that law enforcement, privacy and data-sharing agreements now need to be reexamined in light of American law enforcement transgressions.
Mark Scott contributed reporting to this article