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Unrest over George Floyd killing: 'Is this the end of the American dream?'

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A protester carries a U.S. flag upside, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, early Friday, May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis.
A protester carries a U.S. flag upside, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, early Friday, May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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The American Dream. It's a concept metaphorically sown into the Stars and Stripes, into the education of the nation's children. It's an ethos that this 'Land of the Free' is supposed to live by. Any American should be able to follow the dream. In America, you can succeed regardless of what class you were born into, regardless of what colour you are. That's the idea.

But as international outrage grows over the death of George Floyd, with protests staged across the world and criticism coming in from foreign leaders, is this the end of the dream?

Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, died last week in Minneapolis after he was pinned to the ground by a white police officer who put his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes during which time he stopped breathing.

His death set off violent protests that spread across the country. President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy the US military if local authorities do not quell the unrest.

The European Union’s top diplomat said the bloc was "shocked and appalled" by Floyd’s death, calling it the result of "an abuse of power". Josep Borrell added that Europeans "support the right to peaceful protest, and (..) condemn violence and racism of any kind."

Thousands marched through downtown Sydney on Tuesday. The protesters in Australia's largest city chanted, "I can't breathe" – some of the final words of both Floyd and David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.

The demonstrators carried placards reading, "Black Lives Matter," "Aboriginal Lives Matter," "White Silence is Violence" and, referring to those protesting in cities across the U.S., "We See You, We Hear You, We Stand With You."

AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
Protestors gather in Sydney, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, to support the cause of U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd.AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

Captain Sonia Pruitt, a representative of the National Black Police Association, rejects the idea that racist cops are just "a few bad apples" tainting the reputation of US law enforcement. She says much more needs to be done to increase police accountability.

"If there are a few bad apples, then I'm waiting for someone to take them out of the barrel," she told Euronews in a live TV interview.

'Sowing discord'

Foes and critics of the United States are relishing the situation.

"Racism against ethnic minorities in the US is a chronic disease of American society," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing. "The current situation reflects once more the severity of the problems of racism and police violence in the US.”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking in English in Tehran, said: "To the American people: the world has heard your outcry over the state of oppression. The world is standing with you. And to the American officials and police: stop violence against your people and let them breathe."

Trump's national security advisor had warned on Sunday that foreign adversaries would seize this crisis to "sow discord" and try to weaken US democracy.

Speaking on ABC News, Robert O'Brien criticised Chinese officials for "taking some sort of pleasure and solace in what they're seeing here."

Americans seeking redress are "not going to be thrown in jail for peaceful protesting. There's a difference between us and you," he said.

Losing its appeal

The fact that George Floyd's death has resonated so strongly across the world has a lot to do with timing, says Henry Bonsu, a broadcaster and international conference moderator based in London.

"America for generations has presented itself (in turns by JFK and Ronald Reagan) as this shining 'city upon a hill', the exceptional, wonderful experiment, the melting pot, the likes of which other countries should try and imitate," Bonsu told Euronews in a live TV interview.

"That moral authority has been on the wane over the last few years. And other countries are no longer as afraid if they were to say to America: we are not impressed by you," he said.

Bonsu believes international protests over the killing in George Floyd will help galvanise demonstrators in the United States and force authorities to do some serious soul-searching.

"It will make the American leaders wonder: What have we become? Is this the end of the American Dream?"

You can watch excerpts from Bonsu’s interview in the video player above.