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Monday, 15 July 2024
An Episode of an American Spring
Dalia Ziada

The massive popular protests sparked by the killing of the black American citizen, George Floyd, by a police officer in Minneapolis, late in May, continues to gain a momentum enhanced by medium-intensity waves of political change. The movement calls for justice for black citizens, and regulating the use of physical violence by policemen during arresting or chasing suspects. Racial discrimination is an old social problem in the United States, which threatens the lives of black people and affects their access to political and economic opportunities as equal citizens.


The movement, with the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” has already succeeded in influencing decision-makers, in the United States and beyond, to amend legislations that allow policemen to use physical violence to control suspects during arrest. The movement has also encouraged film production industry to withdraw classic titles from American film libraries, such as "Gone with the Wind," because of scenes showing the practice of racial discrimination against black people, which was socially acceptable at the time of producing the movie.


The movement’s impact is not limited to the United States. Protesters in Britain and some European countries showed up on streets, forcing policymakers to make urgent changes to laws governing police systems. The news about the George Floyd protests has greatly alienated the overwhelming news about the spread of the Coronavirus and its devastating effects on the economic and social statuses of nations and individuals.


In the Arab world, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is, also, attracting a lot of attention. People, here, are gloating over the American popular movement with an overwhelming sense of dejavu. The gloating, which I despise, is emerging from a conspiracy theory adopted by many in the Arab world claiming that the United States is the mastermind of the series of revolutions known as “the Arab Spring;” and, thus, for them, the U.S. is responsible for Arab Spring’s damaging consequences; e.g. civil wars and empowering terrorist organizations, all over the region.


On the other hand, the sense of dejavu is, legitimately, aroused among Arab viewers, due to the extreme similarity between the iconic scenes of the George Floyd protests and the iconic scenes of the Arab Spring revolutions, that took place nine years ago. The National Guard deployment to streets and their cordial and sympathizing conversations with protesters, and the Muslim mass prayer in a New York street during protests, are two examples of many. Even, the incident of George Floyd killing by a policeman, which sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement, is almost identical to the incident of killing the young Egyptian Khaled Said by a policeman, which sparked the Egyptian revolution in 2011.


Ironically, some of my fellow Egyptians called the George Floyd protests the “American Spring” and prospected the fall of the Trump administration. Actually, the fall of the regime was one of the trends that the democratic rivals of the republican President Trump attempted to leak into the movement. On the third day of the eruption of peaceful protests, paralleled by acts of riot and violence by an intruding anarchist group, the hashtag “America or Trump” was trending on Twitter. At the same day, famous democratic leaders issued media statements pointing at President Trump, and his republican agenda, as the main motivator for racial discrimination against the black people. That clearly unfair and politicized stance by the democrats is contradictory to the fact that racial discrimination is a historical challenge that is as old as the foundation of the United States. Over centuries, both democratic and republican administrations failed to totally end racial discrimination in America.


But, soon, the movement’s organizers realized that their endeavors may be doomed to failure if they do not exclude those trying to hijack the momentum of their protests. That does not only include the democrats, who are competing against Trump in the next presidential elections, in November, but also the Muslim Brotherhood organizations who are seeking to have an upper hand in their continued conflict with the police apparatus.


Excluding those trying to over-ride the protests with their own slogans and interests, while exclusively focusing on the main goal of the movement, is one reason why the protests are already succeeding in getting stronger and more influential. An equally important reason for the success of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is denouncing violence and showing high commitment to nonviolent discipline by the protesters. The nonviolent discipline has always been an essential factor in the success of nonviolent movements, American civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1950s.


The George Floyd protests shall come to an end, sooner or later, but their positive impact on the United States’ domestic policy shall remain for decades. In that sense, one can comfortably claim that the “Black Lives Matter” movement has initiated an episode of an American Spring.

Dalia Ziada