In 2008, a man broke into the garden of the château in Lány, where the Czech president was staying at the time. When he was detained by the police, he collapsed and soon died. The incident attracted little attention at the time, erupted from the news after one day, and the media did not even report on the final results of the investigation. ¨
When something similar happened in Teplice, it provoked strong reactions. The difference, of course, was that this case was captured on video. At the same time, the Teplice death case was already embedded in mythology, which was last year’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Myths are stories that have great power over us because they clarify our collective existence.
When you listen to a narrative with the feeling that it takes place everywhere, that the old story in which we are all actors in one way or another, is repeated, you live in a time of myth.
In this case, some people, Roma activists, and similarly involved figures, felt that George Floyd’s death was taking place here again.
The police of the Czech Republic also agreed to this comparison, when they literally stated in a press release that it was “no Czech Floyd”. And they explained that he was a recidivist who was under the influence of drugs.
It is probably inevitable now that a detailed and transparent, publicly monitored investigation takes place. The fact that the policeman was kneeling on the offender’s neck even some time after he stopped growling menacingly, suggests a certain similar point with the Minneapolis case. It is almost hard to believe. Did it not occur to him that he should be careful about kneeling on someone in 2021?
It probably didn’t, because police work is not done for the needs of video cameras, and not everyone constantly watches the media and events in the U.S., as if it were drama worth following for all.
But the comparison is non-fitting, misleading, and it needs to end.
First of all, if the police were to kill in our country (for simplicity, let’s only consider shootings) at the same rate as in the U.S., it would mean, in terms of our circumstances, about 40 deaths a year. This is a different world. In our country, the numbers of people who died as a result of contact with the police are not systematically recorded, but in 2005, MF DNES daily reporters calculated that since 1994, there have been about 16 such cases.
There are appalling cases among them. For example, a policeman who killed an accidental passerby when shooting from a moving car, or the Brno case from 2009, when three police officers beat Vietnamese Hoang Son Lam. He died the next day. They were called to the scene because he had a psychotic break under the influence of drugs. In 2011, the police were convicted, and it turned out that it was a rotten group that committed some other criminal activity.
There have undoubtedly been a few appalling cases over the years. But again — American standards would mean 40 killed a year.
The American reality is different for many other reasons. The country is full of firearms, and some jurisdictions are full of violence. There were 130 murders in the Czech Republic last year; in Chicago, which has a population of two and a half million, there were 769. It is an indicator from which one can get an idea of what life looks like there, in what environment the police officers move there, and in what situations they get into.
Thanks to the expansion of smartphones and personal cameras, which police officers have been required to wear in many places in the U.S. in recent years, we can watch a diverse gallery of police interventions. We can watch those which have become viral and aroused understandable outrages like police officers shooting at people who did not resist and did not pose a danger.
We can also see situations in them where a police officer had to react in a split second because someone pulled a gun on him.
And then many situations that are somewhere in between. Among them are the clashes with people who are mentally ill, which is a legacy of the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care. And also people under the influence of drugs. And also people who live fast, violently, and ruthlessly, and deterrence does not work on them.
If the police claim that there was no Czech Floyd in Teplice because it was a drug recidivist, it must be said that Floyd was also a drug recidivist. Yes, Officer Derek Chauvin murdered him, and he was convicted for it. Both of these things are true and do not exclude each other.
If it comes to someone as a contradiction, it’s probably because the character of George Floyd has been massively mythologized. This time, as in the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, immense energy was put into it — murals with Floyd, statues of Floyd, quasi-religious ceremonies, during which participants dedicate themselves to the memory of Blessed George Floyd.
But basically, it’s just a tense case of everyday practice. The survivors always portray their dead as exemplary citizens. And if they cannot manage to portray them as exemplary citizens because that would be too loudly contrary to the proven facts, then at least like improved sinners who had just set out on the right path to put their lives together. They will always find some lawyers to help them with that. There is always a chance that they will be able to recover some compensation. Such “legal chasers of ambulances,” as they are sometimes called, and various irresponsible racial agitators sometimes pursue lucrative and satisfying careers.
The George Floyd case is practically irrelevant to us. Rather, it testifies to the aggressive spreading of American discourse to us, whether in terms of sexual relations or, for example, the topic of gender. And now in the field of police work.
It’s a remarkable delirium. A realistic response would draw attention to another phenomenon, namely the problem of drug abuse, which leads to temporary or even permanent personality changes.
If our young activists want to experience a myth that gives them the feeling that they are involved in something important and at the same time part of the developed world, why not choose some cases from areas closer to us and more comparable to civilization? Knowing the name of a Slovak who died in a Belgian police cell in 2018 is probably not cool enough (his name was Jozef Chovanec). But we are Europeans, so why aren’t names like Steve Maia Caniço, Adam Traoré, Bouna Traoré, and Zyed Benna or Theo L. and other victims of the French police as valuable on social networks?