An American Horror Show
American society and polity is close to anarchy. There are riots in 41 cities across America. America is burning but worse, armed militias are on the street fomenting chaos.
The riots in the United States are generated by fear. They started when a policeman in Minneapolis put his knee on the neck of an African-American and left it there until the man was dead. The Minneapolis police responded quickly by sacking the four policemen involved in the arrest and death of George Floyd. Shortly afterward the former policeman Derek Chauvin, who was responsible for the death, was charged with third-degree murder. This was not enough for people who believe that their police and different levels of government are not committed to keeping them safe.
There are now 40 million people who had jobs in America in March but who are now unemployed. Added to this is the fact that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus. These people are frightened and angry.
What are frightening observers is the fact that there are 3 million former soldiers with service in Iraq and Afghanistan who are experienced in urban military activity. A large proportion of them are African Americans. Added to this is the fact that 41 million Americans live in households with guns. Since the election of Donald Trump, there has been a proliferation in armed militias. According to David Kilcullen, the counter-terrorism expert, writing in the ‘Weekend Australian’ these militias, which represent white supremacist and progressive protest groups are preparing for civil war and use protests to create civil chaos.
By 5 pm (AEST) on Monday, 4000 people in the US had been arrested. The protests appeared to have been infiltrated by the radical-left group Antifa who were encouraging violence and looting, particularly after dark. This led President Trump to say that he would have Antifa declared a terrorist organization. Malcolm Turnbull made a public intervention on Monday declaring that Donald Trump was acting in a divisive way.
Another concern is the fact that the protesters are not following social distancing and with so many protests going on it is likely that coronavirus will spread through these communities which could put massive strains on health systems across the country. In London, protestors were arrested for not obeying social distancing laws.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed his concern at events in the United States. There are also concerns about the possibility of civil unrest in this country. David Kilcullen says that some of the extreme militia groups that operate in America are also established in Australia. There is also evidence that some of these groups may be supported by foreign actors.
Australia is also gripped by fear as a consequence of the coronavirus. A recent survey by the Australia Institute revealed that nearly 80% of voters in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia want the state borders to remain closed. Since the medical experts say there is no justification for this policy and it is costing the closed state economies billions of dollars, the border closures are a reflection of irrational fears.
While aboriginal Australians have not suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus there is still a concern in this country about social disadvantage. There are also radical demonstrations over environmental issues. The propensity of the media to engage in victim advocacy is not helpful.
These tensions could morph into violent protests if people start to believe the Government is not protecting them.