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U.S. Protests Have Ignited a Worldwide Call for Justice

The George Floyd protests are forcing authorities to confront their own failings on racism, and not just in the United States.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A protester holds a sign that reads "How many were not filmed" in Portuguese stands in front of a riot police squad during a protest on June 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A protester holds a sign that reads "How many were not filmed" in Portuguese stands in front of a riot police squad during a protest on June 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A protester holds a sign that reads "How many were not filmed" in Portuguese stands in front of a riot police squad during a protest on June 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. protests against brutality see the first signs of a policy response, India and China signal a cooling of tensions over their border, Brazil stops publishing some coronavirus figures, and what to watch in the world this week.

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Policymakers Begin To Respond As Protests Go Global

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. protests against brutality see the first signs of a policy response, India and China signal a cooling of tensions over their border, Brazil stops publishing some coronavirus figures, and what to watch in the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Policymakers Begin To Respond As Protests Go Global

Over the weekend, protests continued across the world against racism and police violence. In the country where the protests began, local policymakers are beginning to respond.

In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed the site of U.S. President Donald Trump’s June 1 church photo op “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and commissioned artists to spell out “Black Lives Matter” on the street in bright yellow letters that span more than a city block in length. On Saturday, the city saw its largest protests yet, with no sign of the heavy security presence in place from earlier in the week. In a sign of battles to come, protestors added their own message to the mayor by painting “Defund the police” alongside the earlier painted slogan.

That call has been heard in New York by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has pledged to cut the city’s police budget—currently $6 billion—in response to constituent pressure. He has not said how by much he would reduce the police budget, which is more than 6 percent of the city’s total budget.

A place to start may be counterterrorism spending, as Jake Bittle wrote in Foreign Policy last week. “The NYPD spent around $187 million on counterterrorism operations last year, compared to $116 million on officer training last year. Given the rarity of actual terrorist incidents—even in New York—the additional manpower and high-tech equipment are deployed to monitor political groups and protesters who have no intention of committing illegal activity,” he writes.

Cutting funding is one thing, but Minneapolis—the Midwestern city that lit the spark of protest after the death of George Floyd—is going further: Its city council has announced its intention to disband the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) entirely. “Our commitment is to end our toxic relationship with MPD and to end policing as we know it to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe,” City Council President Lisa Bender said. Such a strategy was deployed by the city of Camden, New Jersey, in 2013.

As the protests gather momentum globally, they have become a means to highlight domestic instances of racism and police violence:

In Brazil, the case of João Pedro Matos Pinto, a black 14-year-old shot dead by police in a Rio de Janeiro suburb in a case of mistaken identity, has electrified Brazil and led to mass protests on Sunday of a scale not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic. It has also shined a light on the Rio police force: 1,814 people were killed by Rio police in 2019, and 606 have been killed in the first quarter of 2020.

In Japan, protestors took to the streets of Tokyo and Osaka over the weekend to protest racism, both at home and abroad. A video of a Kurdish man being shoved to the ground by Tokyo police officers has spurred hundreds to the streets. A protest over the man’s treatment already prompted protest in Tokyo on May 30, and one person was arrested. “We all know what’s happening in the U.S.,” Nami Nanami, 28, told The Japan Times. “The same thing is happening in Japan but nobody is talking about it.”

In Bristol, an English city on the border with Wales, protestors took their frustration out by tearing down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century British slave trader. The removal mirrored similar actions in the United States over statues of Confederate generals, with one exception: When protestors successfully toppled the statue, they then rolled it down the street and unceremoniously disposed of it in a nearby river.

Where do we go from here? Writing in Foreign Policy on June 6, Stephen M. Walt admits that knowing what comes next is impossible, but he does take a shot. “My guess is that the level of anger is going to get worse between now and November—especially in the nation’s cities—and it will expand beyond the issue of racial injustice,” he writes.


What We’re Following Today

Powell backs Biden. Colin Powell is throwing his weight behind Joe Biden in his presidential bid, telling CNN in a rare public interview that Trump “lies all the time” and has “drifted away” from the constitution. Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and secretary of state under George W. Bush, is the latest former senior military commander and high-profile GOP figure to denounce the president ahead of the 2020 elections. Trump fired back on Twitter, calling Powell “a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East wars.” Powell’s endorsement was welcomed with open arms by Biden’s camp as a showing of bipartisan support, but most political analysts agree it is unlikely to sway the minds of Trump’s ardent supporters.

The China-India border. Tensions between India and China over a border dispute appear to be easing after a meeting between military leaders from both countries on Saturday. “Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreements between the leaders that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations,” a statement from India’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Chinese and Indian forces clashed in May, prompting fears over a wider conflict between the world’s most populous countries.

Brazil nixes coronavirus figures. Over the weekend, Brazilian authorities removed online data about the country’s coronavirus epidemic, including key figures such as total cases and the overall death toll. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who local media report ordered the data removed, said the change was necessary because the previous reporting did “not reflect the moment the country is in.” Only new daily cases and deaths are now shown on the government’s official website.

The move has Brazilians concerned about a shift toward authoritarianism. “Attempts are made to hide the numbers in COVID-19 to reduce or control health policies. The trick will not remove responsibility for the eventual genocide,” Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes tweeted.

New statistical study questions basis for Morales removal. A new study by independent researchers, and reviewed by the New York Times, has thrown the reasoning behind the ouster of former Bolivian President Evo Morales into doubt. Researchers were unable to find the same irregularities in voting data that caused the Organization of American States (OAS) to declare the elections of October 2019 rigged. “We took a hard look at the OAS’s statistical evidence and found problems with their methods,” Francisco Rodríguez, one of the researchers, told the Times. “Once we correct those problems, the OAS’s results go away, leaving no statistical evidence of fraud.”

OAS officials have backed their initial assessment. “Statistics don’t prove or disprove fraud. Hard evidence like falsified statements of polls and hidden I.T. structures do. And that is what we found,” said Gerardo De Icaza, the OAS head of electoral observations. Since Morales—the country’s first indigenous president—fled Bolivia, the country has been under the control of interim President Jeanine Añez Chavez, a Bolivian of European heritage. Although Añez promised swift elections after assuming the role in November, she has held on to power for the past seven months.


Keep an Eye On

More prisoner exchanges. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Iran is ready to continue prisoner exchanges with the United States after last week’s release of Michael White for Majid Taheru. “If the possibility of exchanging prisoners exists, we have the readiness to free the rest of the individuals who are imprisoned in America and return them to the country,” Mousavi said. 

Japan not condemning Hong Kong move. Japan will not join the United States, United Kingdom and Australia in a statement condemning China’s imposition of a new national security law on Hong Kong, according to the Kyodo news agency. Tokyo has issued its own statement about the proposed law on May 28, saying it was “seriously concerned.”

Russia confronts a warming country. Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office has ordered a review of all hazardous materials held on permafrost in the wake of last week’s collapse of a diesel tank in Siberia that caused one of the worst fuel spills in recent history. Rising temperatures in Siberia have begun to melt the region’s permafrost, and temperatures in May were up to 10 degrees Celsius above average.


The World This Week

On Tuesday, June 9, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook will address the Heritage Foundation. He is expected to discuss the U.S. campaign to continue a United Nations Security Council backed arms embargo on Iran imposed as part of the Iran nuclear deal. The embargo is set to expire in October.

On Wednesday, June 10, the U.S. Federal Reserve will release its decision on whether to raise, lower, or maintain interest rates, followed by a press conference with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

Also on Wednesday, the chief foreign affairs representative of the European Union, Josep Borell, will hold talks with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, with Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank high on the agenda.


Odds and Ends

The U.S. Department of Defense is prepared for an insurrection by U.S. youth, if the time comes. The revelation came after The Intercept published information obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request about 2018 Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Special Program, a war game conducted by the U.S. military’s war colleges. Dubbed “Zbellion” the scenario involves members of generation Z (those born after 1996)—described as “among the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the ‘American Dream,’ and that the ‘system is rigged’ against them”—engaging in cyberattacks and promoting anarchy across the world.

That’s it for today.


For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com

Robbie Gramer contributed to this report.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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