World Mayor 2023 Police killings of Black Americans
By City Mayors Research

Black Americans three times as likely to be killed by police ||| US mayors respond to the killing of George Floyd ||| Black Americans suffer most from police violence ||| International response to the killing of George Floyd ||| Killings carried out by police officers in selected countries ||| Research sources |||

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Police killing of Black AmericansBlack Americans three times
as likely to be killed by police
than white Americans

June 2020: After nationwide race riots in the second half of the 1960s, the Kerner commission set up by US President Lyndon B Johnson concluded that racism and police brutality were the primary cause of the riots. One sentence in the report summed up the state of American society: “America is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” The police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Monday, 25 May 2020, like many similar tragedies in the past ten years, shows that the words of Illinois Governor Otto Kerner are as relevant today as they were in 1968. LZ Granderson, who writes for the Los Angeles Times, added: “How can a nation born out of genocide, built on slavery and a system, which places minorities firmly behind their white counterparts…have peace.”

The death of George Floyd sparked waves of protests, demonstrations and rioting across the US. Protests took place in more than 75 US cities. Some 40 cities imposed nightly curfews. According to media reports the number of curfews was more widespread since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Fifteen states, including Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington and California, mobilised the National Guard, a military reserve force under dual control of state governments and the federal government.

US mayors respond to the
killing of George Floyd

• In New York City, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, gathering at marches in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. Speaking to fellow New Yorkers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that today he was going to speak very plainly what is happening in America. “It begins with an acknowledgment that there is a poison in this land, there is something profoundly wrong, and in so many ways we pretend to see it, pretend to address it but we don't do it in a deep and meaningful way. And that's why we are experiencing everything we are experiencing. There is a poison of structural racism. It haunts the lives of people of color every day in this country, in this city – every day.”

“And then the entire nation watches George Floyd killed in broad daylight by someone who is supposed to protect us with no concern at all, his killer seemed to have no emotion about the fact that he was killing a Black man as if there was no value in that man. And unfortunately, that's what the history of this country has taught too many people and we have to stop it. So, I'm beginning by saying that raw pain, anger, frustration it gets brought up so deeply in moments like this but it's an every day, every hour thing for Black New Yorkers, for Latino New Yorkers, for so many people who deal with the pain of racism, pervasive in their lives.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke from the front of City Hall, saying that all too often we hear the news that another black man or another black woman has been killed. "Our response is consistent. 'I can’t believe this. How could this happen?' But we all know how it happened. It's part of the history of hatred and violence rooted in our country's past and continues today through systemic racism. This is not something politicians say. This is reality," he said. "For black Americans, black parents and black children, it’s a traumatic reality played out far too many times and it never stops hurting. We do not and we will not tolerate that kind of brutality here in Boston and will continue to take steps necessary to prevent it."

In Washington DC, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds clashed with the Secret Service and attacked a Fox New reporter. Fires were set in Lafayette Park, near the White House.

In Chicago, more than 3,000 people took part in protests. Some protests took place in front of Trump Tower. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused US President Donald Trump to foment violence after his Tweet saying that “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” She further responded: ““I will code what I really want to say to Donald Trump. It’s two words: It begins with F and ends with YOU.”

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a curfew, a day after the police made more than 500 arrests. Police used batons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds and California’s Governor Gavin Newsom activated the National Guard.

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave an emotional speech following violent clashes between demonstrators and the police. The Mayor, who is black, told her audience that that was happening on the streets of Atlanta was not Atlanta. “This is not a protest, this is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, this is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.”

Black Americans suffer
most from police violence

In America, black people are three times as likely to be killed by the police than whites. Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative that collects data on police killings across the US. The organisation collects the data to encourage citizens to hold police chiefs and mayors accountable for ending police violence in their cities.

The organisation’s key findings for the period January 2013 to December 2019 include:

• 26 per cent of police killings between January 2013 - December 2019 were committed by police departments of the 100 largest U.S. cities.

• Black people were 38 per cent of people killed by these 100 police departments despite being only 21 per cent of the population in their jurisdictions.

• Only 1 (Irvine, CA) of the 100 largest city police departments did not kill anyone from Jan 2013 - Dec 2019 (Irvine, CA).

• 47 per cent of unarmed people killed by the 100 largest city police departments were black. These police departments killed unarmed black people at a rate 4 times higher than unarmed white people.

• Rates of violent crime in cities did not make it any more or less likely for police departments to kill people. For example, Buffalo and Newark police departments had relatively low rates of police violence despite high crime rates while Spokane and Orlando had relatively low crime rates and high rates of police violence.

• From 2013-2019, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department killed 34 black men and Oklahoma City Police Department killed 25 black men. This is an average rate of 7.0 per 100,000 black male population in St. Louis and 8.5 per 100,000 black male population in Oklahoma City - a higher rate than the 2018 US Murder Rate of 5.0 per 100,000.

• Police killings between 2013 and 2019 remained fairly constant: 1,111 cases in 2013; 1,059 in 2014; 1,103 in 2015; 1,071 in 2016; 1,095 in 2017; 1,143 in 2018 and 1,099 in 2019.

International response to
the killing of George Floyd

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across the world to protest the killing of George Floyd while held down by a police officer in Minneapolis. Demonstrations took place in Canada, in European capitals, in Asia, Australia and Africa.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet expressed her dismay of the killing of George Floyd. “I am dismayed to have to add George Floyd’s name to that of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many other unarmed African Americans who have died over the years at the hands of the police – as well as people such as Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin who were killed by armed members of the public.” She urged US authorities to start proceedings against all police officers who resort to excessive use of force. “They should be charged and convicted for the crimes committed.”

Over the weekend following the death of George Floyd, protests took also place outside the US. In London, thousands of demonstrators gathered around the moated US embassy in Battersea. There were also clashes with police outside Amazon-owned Whole Foods supermarket in Kensington.

In Paris, the sister of a black man, who died in police custody after being pinned down by police, said George Floyd’s death was a chilling reminder of her brother. The Paris correspondent of the New York Times added that the widespread condemnation also reflected the growing unease about America’s rapidly eroding moral authority on the world stage.

In Berlin, several thousand demonstrators gathered before the US Embassy for a peaceful protest. A graffiti artist sprayed the image of George Floyd on a remaining section of the Berlin Wall.

Killings carried out by police
officers in selected countries

Research by City Mayors Research found that among major countries the US has the fourth-highest capita rate of people being killed by law enforcement officers. The Philippines top the list, with Brazil in second place and South Africa in third. Countries with very low numbers of police killings include Switzerland, Japan and the UK.

Total no of
police killings
Police killings
per 10 million people
South Africa

Research sources: Country reports; US media; the Washington Post’s ‘Police shooting data base’; Mapping Police Violence; Wikipedia

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