Floyd’s death – along with his final words, “I can’t breathe” – sparked global protests that condemned not only the fatal acts of police brutality in the United States that disproportionately affect Black people, but also the institution of law enforcement as a whole. There were numerous pleas from various organisations, ranging from Black Lives Matter to American Civil Liberties Union, to defund the police. This action would involve reallocating funding from that department to other social services, such as those treating mental health issues and addiction or those dealing with homelessness.
But it also inspired a counterresponse in the form of the “thin blue line” and the slogan “Blue Lives Matter”. At the heart of this is an attempt to reassert a view of the police as a brave battalion of heroes protecting society from evil. But it belies the racism which has formed the basis of policing in the US since it began several centuries ago.
“This is a form of superficially colour-blind racial thinking, that supposed a normative society threatened by an abnormal population of pathological peoples, who must be socially cleansed by policing, prisons, borders and military – the ‘thin blue line’ between civilisation and chaos, to use the words of LAPD chief William Parker,” explains Cesar Rodriguez, an assistant professor of criminal justice at San Francisco State University.