James Baldwin’s eerie ‘police revision’ prophecy exposed amid Black Lives Matter protests

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Mr Baldwin is one of the most celebrated African-American authors of the 20th century. He is cited as one of a handful of influential arts figures that helped the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Gay Liberation Movement.

His works, though not exclusively, explored the status and position of black people in American society.

The literature Mr Baldwin published in his 63 years of life has enjoyed a renaissance in weeks passed – although for reasons that many argue have no place in the 21st century.

The death of George Floyd has sparked a wave of civil unrest across the US, with subsequent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests taking place around the world.

The unarmed African-American 46-year-old died when white police officer Derek Chauvin accused Mr Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill (£15) in a Minneapolis shop.

Mr Floyd died after Mr Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Throughout the ordeal, captured by a bystander, Mr Floyd could be heard shouting “I can’t breathe” – a sentence that has become synonymous with the movement and widely chanted in the face of authority.

Mr Chauvin ignored Mr Floyd’s pleas, while three other officers stood idly around the unfolding scene.

Those remaining officers have since been charged with counts of aiding and abetting murder.

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It has since transpired that Mr Chauvin was named in 17 misconduct complaints during his career for which he received only two letters of reprimand.

Mr Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.

Not only has the incident sparked accusations of racial imbalance in the US, many claim it has also exposed a major flaw in the US policing system.

Law enforcements across the US have been captured on film using excessive amounts of force against protestors, including one video showing officers slamming an old man into the pavement, his head hitting the floor, bathed in a pool of blood while officers walk past him.

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[ANALYSIS] 

In a landmark 1968 Esquire Q&A with Mr Baldwin, the author predicted that one of the only ways civil unrest would ease was if the police’s role in the US was seriously and radically revised.

The Esquire journalist asked Mr Baldwin: “From a very short-range approach, what should the federal government do, right now, to cool it off?”

Mr Baldwin, after talking through the bureaucracies of the White House, summed up his thoughts on the issue in a concise yet powerful few sentences.

He said: “They have made no attempt, whatever, any of them, as far as I know, really to explain to the American people that the black cat in the streets wants to protect his house, his wife and children.

“And if he is going to be able to do this he has to be given his autonomy, his own schools, a revision of the police force in a very radical way.

“It means, in short, that if the American Negro, the American black man, is going to become a free person in this country, the people of this country have to give up something.

“If they don’t give it up, it will be taken from them.”

His words are particularly salient after the Minneapolis council this morning announced it would commit to disbanding the police force.

Nine members of the 13-member council signed their pledge at a rally of protestors demanding that the police force be defunded.

Lisa Bender, council president, speaking from the state in Powderhorn Park, said the city needed a top-to-bottom rethink of what policing is and how it should work.

She said: “Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe, and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that.

“Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”

This came after Minneapolis’ mayor, Jacob Frey, was quizzed on whether he would support the police’s defunding at a protest over the weekend.

After saying he did not, he was booed from the rally, captured walking through crowds of protestors shouting and chanting “go home Jacob”.

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