Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. A Minnesota jury yesterday found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty on three counts – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter – for kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he suffocated and died on 25 May last year. In the days following Floyd’s death the world watched him gasp ‘I can’t breathe’ and knew, long before the jury was empanelled, that Chauvin had killed him, in public and in cold blood. That a jury found him criminally responsible may mark a historic moment for the United States. Such verdicts are vanishingly rare. In Britain, they are even rarer.
Ever since Alexander Lukashenko’s highly contested re-election, the ruler of Belarus has had problems with the neighbours. Having spent 27 years imagining himself the true heir to Soviet power, he’s increasingly dependent on the rival he used to see as a subordinate, Vladimir Putin. And though Brussels once played counterweight to Moscow, the EU states adjoining Belarus are no longer friendly at all. Lithuania has granted asylum to Svetlana Tichanovskaya, the presidential candidate who claims to have beaten Lukashenko last August, and isn’t about to extradite her: the Lithuanian foreign minister says ‘hell will freeze over’ first. Resistance to Lukashenko has taken root among the Belarusian community in Poland, and the government in Warsaw is financing calls for regime change in Minsk.
A certain style of comedy video has become prominent on social media over the past year. A young actor plays a generic, bumbling or morally compromised (although usually affable-seeming) posh person with a connection to a topical event. The videos are described by the actors and their fans as ‘satirical’, although the target of the satire is often unclear, and the performers appear to punch down (or at least sideways) as often as up. The acting is deliberately hammy, derivative and reliant on stereotypes, and the humour seems to come primarily from the theatrical emphasis placed on the fact that a person is making a joke. I’ve come to think of them as ‘funny voice videos’.
In trying to make sense of the worst disturbances in Northern Ireland for years, there are two symmetrical pitfalls to be avoided. One is to present the recent violence as a simple reflex of Brexit, drawing a straight line between Boris Johnson’s campaign bus and a burning bus on the Shankill Road, while ignoring the local factors at work. The other is to overlook the many ways in which choices made at the highest levels of the British state have unsettled the region and added to the stock of combustible material.
The disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard last month sparked a conversation centred on women’s experiences of fear in public places, especially at night. Women have spoken of being afraid to walk alone and restricting their behaviour in case they come to harm.
Last year in Dakar, running an errand near Sandaga market in the centre of town, I came across an armoured personnel carrier belonging to the police, parked on avenue Emile Badiane. Street vendors were lounging against the flanks of the vehicle; their trinkets were spread on the charcoal grey metal. The police sat around, helmets off, eating peanuts and trading pleasantries with passers-by. For someone like me from Niamey in Niger, this resembled a scene from a fairy-tale.