The United States is losing the moral high ground when it comes to cracking down on inconvenient protest movements, according to several governments that the U.S. has accused of anti-democratic behaviour in the past.
Officials in Iran, mainland China, Russia, Venezuela, North Korean and the pro-Chinese government in Hong Kong have all called out U.S. President Donald Trump after he told state governors to “dominate” those protesting the death of George Floyd — something that he has criticized other nations for doing in the past. Trump has also claimed without evidence that the protests are illegitimate, and described the protesters as “terrorists,” “thugs” and “lowlifes.”
The United States’ rivals were eager to point out the systemic injustice behind the death of Floyd, the latest Black man to die during an interaction with police.
Floyd died last month in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned him to the ground for several minutes while pressing a knee into his neck. The incident happened shortly after Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT, was shot dead by police in her home in Louisville, Ky., and after video emerged of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger who was ambushed by white vigilantes in Georgia in February. Tensions were also running high over the case of Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher who was falsely accused of threatening a white woman in Central Park. Cooper recorded the entire incident and the woman was fired after the clip emerged online.
Anger over these incidents has sparked protests across the United States, with all-too-familiar slogans like, “I can’t breathe,” “No justice, no peace,” “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Black lives matter” ringing out at the demonstrations.
“To the American people, the world has … heard your outcry over this state oppression,” said Abbas Mousavi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Monday. “The American regime is pursuing violence and bullying at home and abroad.”
Iran has a long history of human rights abuses, including police crackdowns and long prison sentences for activists, human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and environmentalists, according to Human Rights Watch.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, added insult to injury on Twitter last weekend, by taking a U.S. statement about Iran and simply crossing out “Iran” to write “America” throughout.
“We condemn the government’s same futile tactics of suppression, imprisonment of protesters, and the denial of Iranians’ Americans’ frustrations,” said the doctored statement, originally written by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo fired back in an angry tweet: “You hang homosexuals, stone women and exterminate Jews.”
Carrie Lam, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong who spent months trying to crack down on anti-China protests in her city, also accused the U.S. of upholding “double standards” with its own actions.