Hey all! Hope everyone is safe! I am currently writing this blog post at 12am…I know I should be sleeping but there is something on my mind that I feel like sharing with you.
On 25 May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. It all happened on a Monday night. An employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police after Floyd allegedly tried to pass a forged cheque. CCTV footage shows that Floyd was compliant to the orders given by the policemen. A police officer handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground, kneeling on his neck. Video recorded by a bystander shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes. Despite witnesses telling the officer that his life was in danger, this continued. Floyd repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe,” and then, “I’m about to die.” But as the officer removed his knee it was too late, as George Floyd was already dead. As the footage of this act was posted on social media, protests started at the spot where Floyd died.
But why am I talking about a man that was killed in the USA?
Well, racially motivated violence is a problem all over the world, even here in Malta.
In May 2009, Suleiman Abubaker died after a bouncer at a famous club in Paceville, pushed him to the ground. Suleiman Abubaker suffered a fractured skull and lung contusions. He fell into a coma and died 11 days later. The killing of Suleiman is still unpunished. The bouncer was only fined 500 Euros for a missing licence, but nothing for the death of a human being.
On 6 April 2019, Ivorian migrant Lassana Cisse Souleymane was killed by two members of the Armed Forces of Malta. He was shot when he was peacefully walking at Ħal Far. Two men drove by and decided to shoot Lassana and two other men walking nearby. Prosecutors say the accused men had murdered Cisse because of his skin colour. They also accused the two men of the attempted murder of the other men walking in the area by Lassana.
April 15 2020. At least 12 men die at sea because they were left stranded for days without water, food and fuel. 53 people were sent back to Libya. As NGO Alarm Phone stated, “Malta is responsible for these deaths and for returning the survivors to war, rape and torture”.
When comparing how Maltese society reacted to the murder that happened in the USA, it is completely different to the reaction to these murders. When the killing of George Floyd reached Maltese social media, one could see people sharing and commenting how justice should be served to the policemen that killed the man. Social media was flooded with people sharing photos and videos with the hashtag #Black Lives Matter.
One could also see it on Maltese news pages. But when there was the killing of the migrants in Malta, most of social media (at least what I was exposed to) was flooded by people justifying the acts and stating that they were under the influence of alcohol or that they were provoked. When talking about the migrants left to die at sea, everyone used the excuse of the current pandemic and that “enough is enough”. “charity begins at home” and “we should help the Maltese citizens first”. I don’t know how anyone can justify the killing of these human beings.
Thankfully some people protested and are still protesting about the mistreatment of migrants and people of colour in Malta. On Easter Sunday, Xandru Cassar and Lara Mohnani, started a protest in front of Auberge de Castille. Again on 20 May, Xandru went in front of Parliament demanding a fairer treatment of asylum-seekers. Later that night human rights NGOs joined forces to call on the Government to stop the detention of people out at sea. A number of people also took to social media posting slogans with the hashtag #DontLetThenDrown, to put pressure on the Government. Also aditus foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta and Integra Foundation filed three complaints regarding the situation of the migrants who were being held aboard ferries outside Malta’s territorial waters.
The most exciting event was the peaceful protest held in front of Parliament on 8 June. The aim of this protest was to demand justice for murdered migrant Lassana Cisse. The protest was a really emotional protest for me. As I entered the Valletta’s ‘City Gate’ I was met by a group of men waving the Maltese flag and shouting “ALL LIVES MATTER!” and “MALTA!”. They were the ‘Patrijotti Maltin’ (‘Maltese Patriots’). I couldn’t believe they actually turned up. But as I moved a bit more forward, I could see hundreds of people sitting peacefully, listening to the speakers. There were a number of speakers, many of them people of colour. As I heard them talking I started to tear up a bit cause I could see the pain, anger and disappointment in their eyes.
The best and shortest speech was made by a little girl who simply said “As Michael Jackson once said: IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE BLACK OR WHITE.” The whole crowd clapped for her and I thought, if a little girl is capable of understanding that we are all the same, why do grown-ups find it so hard?
Yes, of course ‘All Lives Matter’, but the word ‘all’ means all people including migrants and people of colour.
I wish that more Maltese people would stand up against these acts, not only by posting on social media. I wish that I would see more people signing petitions and protesting in the name of refugees and asylum-seekers. I wish that more people would see that we are one race and no colour or country should separate us from eachother. I wish that people of all ages, colours and differences would unite against this hatred that there is towards one another. Remember, at the end we all bleed the same colour.
I dedicate this post to all the people that died because of who they were. May you all rest in peace.
#KeepingUpWithTheInterns is part of our project Marginalised Persons as Human Rights Volunteers. If you want to follow Matthew and Rimaz as they navigate their way through Malta’s human rights landscape, subscribe to our News & Updates or follow them on our social media pages!
This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MEDE and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.