When police make protests battlefields

Bloomberg Equality
Bloomberg

The U.S. was born with slavery, racism and inequality baked into its foundation, a grim reality that has bedeviled the country for its entire 243-year history. In modern times, this original sin has manifested in an almost-regular drumbeat of unarmed black men and women being killed by police. The nation is now roiled by massive, overwhelmingly peaceful protests after the death of one of those black men, George Floyd, at the hands of four members of the Minneapolis Police Department. So far, President Donald Trump hasn't attempted to address American grievances about systemic racism, and has instead fanned the flames of division. He has also threatened to deploy active-duty members of the military to suppress sporadic outbreaks of looting—and perhaps demonstrations as well. The military itself is not good with that.

This national fury intended to draw attention to violent, unaccountable policing against people of color has fueled even more violent policing. The scene in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 showed how local police are quick to use military equipment against civilians they are sworn to protect (and who pay their salaries), turning protests into battlefields. The following year, President Barack Obama curbed the sale of some military gear to police. Trump resumed those sales in 2017, and citizens are now seeing their taxpayer dollars used to beat, gas and shoot protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. The line between normal policing and "send in the Marines" has been blurred, something political leaders on both sides of the spectrum warn is an extremely dangerous proposition for the survival of American democracy.

Ironically, as crime across the country and in many big cities fell, spending on police has shot up. Los Angeles officials have come up with a solution to this strange dynamic: They announced this week that it would cut its police budget and devote $250 million to invest in education, health and jobs, especially in communities of color. —Philip Gray

Did you see this? 

Will the U.S. protests spread coronavirus? If so, will the black communities already suffering disproportionately be hit even harder?

Major companies don't always know what to say about social strife, but in this moment one thing is clear: They're expected to say something. Black CEOs in particular are under scrutiny. Of course, any company that says anything will probably be criticized by someone.

Facebook is under fire for what it allows others to say about racial unrest. Twitter flagged comments from Trump as glorifying violence and violating the platform's guidelines, but Facebook has resisted any moderation of the his more inflammatory comments.

This week marks the anniversary of another bloody crackdown against another vast protest: the pro-democracy demonstration in Beijing's historic Tiananmen Square in 1989, which was crushed by security forces, with the estimated dead ranging from hundreds to as many as 10,000. China subsequently expanded its authoritarian reach to make such protests virtually impossible.

A decade's worth of progress for women in the workplace has been erased by the pandemic, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Higher-paid workers are seen as targets in the next wave of job cuts during this economic downturn.

Black Germans are pushing for a census: "Things you don't count usually don't count."

Air travel is only for the young now. Everyone else needs an RV.

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Companies are extending their work-from-home approach, and employees are seizing the chance to move away from expensive cities. While costs soared in Seattle and San Francisco between 2008 and 2018, much of the nation was becoming more affordable.

America wasn't ready 

The U.S. is the wealthiest nation in the world, and was in some ways best prepared to weather the economic disruptions of Covid-19, even while the Trump administration failed spectacularly in addressing the public health catastrophe (107,000 dead and counting). The federal government can issue virtually unlimited debt to finance virtually unlimited spending, unlike any other nation; U.S.-based big companies have amassed huge reserves of cash in the past decade; and U.S. stock markets have been almost resilient during the pandemic (though increasingly seen as disconnected from the economic reality faced by most). But Americans themselves were unprepared, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, and the government was unprepared to protect them. In January, according to a Fed report, 40% of them would have struggled to come up with $400 in an emergency. Then came a really big emergency. The pandemic and resulting unemployment and health crises have shown that the social safety net is weak and that Americans need a stronger one.

 

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