The Black Lives Matter movement has been on steroids since the murder of George Floyd in the United States. Over there previously unimaginable things have been occurring.
The Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, in as big a middle finger to Donald Trump as you can imagine, has had the street in front of the White House renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and just in case the orange one missed it she had “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned in large yellow lettering on the road.
Elsewhere there is a stampede to either cut Police funding or even more dramatically to disband Police Forces and replace them with community safety organisations as is being proposed in Minneapolis, Floyd’s home town. From Oliver Milman in the Guardian:
Nine members of Minneapolis city council have vowed to dismantle the city’s police department, which was responsible for the death of George Floyd, and replace it with a new community-based system of public safety.
Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, demurred when asked if he would abolish the police department – but the nine city council votes will be enough to override Frey’s veto.
Efforts to reform the police have not been sufficient, said Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis city council president.
She said: “Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
And here in Aotearoa New Zealand this week has had had two instances where Government agencies have done the right thing in recognition of the racist elements of what was happening.
The first was the Police discontinuing the Armed Response Teams trial. From Radio New Zealand:
The controversial police Armed Response Teams have been axed for good, with the Police Commissioner saying they failed to get public support.
The six-month trial in Counties-Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury was fiercely criticised by justice advocates, concerned about a lack of community consultation, and that the armed squads would disproportionately target Māori and Pasifika communities.
The Labour Maori Caucus, and good on them for doing so, had earlier come out against the trial. From Mark Quinlivan at Newshub:
Labour’s Māori Caucus has voiced its concerns about the general arming of New Zealand police officers.
A six-month trial of the country’s first armed police officers – the Armed Response Teams (ARTs) – was launched in October. Then-Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the teams would focus on any crime that caused “significant risk”.
But Labour Māori Caucus co-chair Willie Jackson said it’s discussed its concerns about the trial with Police Minister Stuart Nash.
“The Labour Māori Caucus made our view very clear that we are totally opposed to the general arming of our police force,” Jackson said.
He said there’s a feeling the ART trial commenced with a lack of consultation – especially with Māori.
Documents obtained by Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint last week revealed disadvantages to Māori were one of the risks identified by those overlooking the trial.
Jackson said any form of racism is unacceptable in any organisation.
“Continuing the conversation around intolerance and racism is crucial to Aotearoa New Zealand recovery post-COVID-19, and the Labour Māori Caucus will do our part, to make sure that happens,” Jackson said.
And Jacinda Ardern also expressed major reservations about the trial. From Radio New Zealand:
Ardern said the government did raise concerns with the Commissioner of Police about the [Armed Response Teams] trials at the time.
“They were operational decisions so not something we were consulted on before those trials began, but we did raise concerns.”
Ardern said it was important not to interfere with police operational matters, however, the government did not consider the general arming of police a matter they could not take a view on.
“I’ve always had a very firm view on the general arming of police, I’m totally opposed, always will be. The Police Commissioner himself has also said he shares that view.”
Message received obviously.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner, which is an independent Crown entity, based its report on the personal accounts of 13 families of babies which were either at risk of removal or had been removed into state custody.
Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said their stories highlighted “deep systemic issues” in the state care and protection system.
Becroft said today that the best interests of the child were “always the paramount consideration” and were inextricably linked to their mothers’ interest and wellbeing.
“It is vital we hear the voices of mothers within the system,” he said.
“The cries of the Māori mothers in this report, irrespective of whether a child was removed or not, is that the right kind of early support be provided to them.
“They want to be treated with humanity, and to have the long-term wellbeing of their babies put first, by respecting and acknowledging their place within whānau, hapū and iwi rather than a system that strengthens the chains of inter-generational state care.”
In an introduction to the report, he said the personal accounts were backed by statistic analysis in an earlier report produced in January. Among the earlier report’s findings were that Māori children aged between 0 and 3 months were five times more likely to be uplifted than non-Māori.
Becroft also said any recommendations for change would be produced in a later report.
“I have chosen to share this report without recommendations at this stage so the voices can speak powerfully and stand by themselves.
“It will allow time to reflect on and absorb them. The voices themselves suggest areas where change could be considered and, indeed, could begin to take place without the need for specific recommendations now.”
Oranga Tamariki has responded negatively to the report and questioned its methodology and criticised its lack of recommendations. But Becroft has said why the report has been structured in this way.
The surge of the Black Lives Matter movement with worldwide protests against racism is forcing countries to analyse their history and their practices. And will hopefully result in change.