Written By Lindsay Wong
Although police brutality is still one of the most central issues that displays systemic and institutionalized racism in the US right now, it is important to remember that police brutality is not only an American issue – it is a global one. Indeed, police brutality did trigger the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, starting a global movement. In many other continents besides North America, police brutality especially towards marginalized communities is a massive issue that puts people at risk and essentially makes the entire community less safe, since authorities are meant to protect us, not harm us. It is difficult to confront an issue as serious as police brutality when the authorities are the ones causing the problem.
Recent news headlines have reported many accounts of police brutality in Columbia. The governments of many South American countries are corrupt, leading to people protesting in the streets against the government. In Columbia’s case, right at the start of May 2021, people took to the streets – donned with masks, since COVID-19 is still present – to protest tax reforms. The protests were peaceful, but police opened fire on the protestors and killed many of them, while detaining many others. The human rights demonstrators reported being harassed and threatened by the police. There is video evidence of police officers dragging protestors, beating them and shooting them. The United Nations has condemned the police for violently and aggressively interrupting a peaceful protest.
In the entire continent of Africa itself, police brutality has increasingly become a central concern within the community. Around the continent, citizens feel abandoned and outraged at how the authorities, who are supposed to be protecting them, end up being the perpetrators of violence against them instead. Many African countries have turned to brutality and violence when dealing with COVID-19, particularly with new curfews. In August 2020, a young boy with Down syndrome, who was unarmed, was shot in the head when he could not respond to an officer’s questions. The community wants such officers to be held accountable for their actions that bring fear instead of safety. Corruption Watch has reported that South Africa is the most corrupt country in the continent. This is because there is abuse of power and bribery among the authorities. Every year, up to 500 people are killed by the police, leading to a loss of trust in the police.
In Hong Kong, since protests over the Extradition Bill started in 2019, protestors have become subject to police brutality. Protests started out peacefully, but as clashes with the police became more common, protests gradually became more violent. In their fight for democracy, many protestors have been jailed or have had their names blacklisted in official records. Because the majority are youths, it will be much harder for them to get jobs in the future. Within one year since protests started, the police already arrested 9000 people and unleashed 16,000 rounds of tear gas, pepper balls, chemical-laced water cannons and other injury-inflicting tactics in an attempt to hurt protestors. Authorities refuse to acknowledge the police’s actions as violent and have instead encouraged them by giving them full backing. Protestors were labelled as terrorists and the youth now have deep mistrust in the government.
Police brutality in Europe occurs for racially-motivated reasons against racial minorities. Many tragic incidents have witnessed unarmed teenagers of color being shot by the police without much fanfare. In April 2020, a 19-year-old teenager of Moroccan descent was shot in a police chase in Brussels, Belgium. These incidents do not receive media attention, with media choosing to focus on criminalizing the victim instead. Systemic racism is as much a problem in Europe as it is in the US, yet there are no mass protests against the police. Racial profiling is prevalent around Europe and compared to the US, European authorities have taken fewer practical steps to combat police brutality. In fact, speaking about race in Europe is still a major taboo and many Europeans are unaware about the dangers of European colonialism.
The Aboriginal people in Australia are victims of police brutality and are often targeted by the police. Since the 1990s, there have been at least 400+ Aboriginal deaths in custody and no one has ever been convicted. Their community has always raised these concerns, but to no avail. One reason why is because mainstream media does not give this issue any attention, so the public has limited knowledge of it. When they do cover it, the Aboriginal perspective is labelled as “dysfunctional” and “lawless” and the police’s actions are justified. This further perpetuates a harmful and problematic narrative.
Police brutality is a global issue that pervades every continent. In many cases, the police do more harm than good, which is certainly not their job. It is hard to ignore such a prevalent issue when it takes place on a regular basis somewhere in the continent. While George Floyd’s murder did bring to light the issue of police brutality, there are few initiatives that tackle it around the world.