Health Race

Police Brutality in the Time of Coronavirus

Covid-19 is shining yet another spotlight on American systemic racism as African Americans face higher rates of death from coronavirus, as well as policing in the form of social distancing patrols, which are often racially disparate, inequitable, and aggressive.

A majority of businesses have reduced operations or closed, but the NYPD has not slowed operations at all during the pandemic. Even in the midst of a historic crisis, the police oppression of Black and Brown communities perseveres.

Earlier this week in New York City’s East Village, the violent arrest of a Black man allegedly defying social distancing orders was captured on camera by a witness. This was one of three arrests in the area that day by unmasked officers breaking the very social distancing rules they were ostensibly enforcing. All of these arrests have been condemned by the Legal Aid Society which is asking the NYPD to reconsider their selective social distancing enforcement. The NYPD is currently investigating the incident.

In Philadelphia last month, mask requirements on public transportation led to the accosting of a Black bus rider by eight or nine police officers who then forced him off the bus instead of handing him a mask as they have been doing for white people gathering in crowded public parks in blatant disregard of social distancing policies. Armed, white anti-lockdown protesters across the country have gathered in defiance of social distancing orders without any reports of aggressive policing, while Black and Brown Americans face pepper spray, harassment, and arrest for failing to adhere to social distancing measures.

Black Americans are more likely to use public transit and hold essential jobs, meaning that Black people have to be out in public more and are forced to involuntarily serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Sources: NPR 05/05/20, Gothamist 05/03/20, Truthout 04/29/20, The Guardian 04/15/20

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