Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday rejected what he called false comparisons between Americas law enforcement response to the protests sparked by the police-custody death of George Floyd, and the brutal crackdowns on free speech and assembly by authoritarian regimes.
Floyds death during an arrest that saw a Minneapolis police officer, since fired and criminally charged, kneel on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked widespread protests and spurred debate over reform of policing practices. Some demonstrations degenerated into looting and violence, which was at times met with a decisive law enforcement response.
Pompeo said at a press briefing and, separately, in an email to State Department staff, obtained by The Hill and Politico, that the way the bouts of civil unrest in the wake of Floyds death have played out prove that America cherishes values like the freedom of protesters to voice grievances without fear of reprisal, unlike what typically happens in tyrannical regimes.
“Weve now seen people say, Hey, were calling for changes in the way law enforcement works,'” Pompeo told reporters at a press conference Wednesday on the occasion of the release of the departments release of the annual religious freedom report.
“You can see this debate take place in America,” Pompeo continued, referring to the public discourse around reforming police practices.
“That doesnt happen in nations across the world. In Tiananmen Square 31 years ago, when thousands of people were massacred, instead they repressed journalists, they disappeared people. Its fundamentally different,” he said.
Pompeo rejected the notion that there is a “moral equivalency between what takes place in these countries where they repress their people and they bludgeon their people and they burn down their religious facilities,” and the way debate takes place in America, where he said journalists have the freedom to “demand that we provide responses to you and hold us accountable.”
Calling America “special,” Pompeo insisted that “challenges like the ones that were confronting here in the United States today will be managed head-on, there will be a political process thats engaged of, there will be wide open debate.”
In Pompeos Wednesday email to staff, he said Floyds death sent shock waves around the world and that “it is appropriate” to address the concerns it has exposed.
“Our own civic unrest gives us an extraordinary opportunity to tell our story abroad: the American response to events of these past weeks presents a stark contrast to what happens in totalitarian regimes around the world,” Pompeo wrote, according to Politico.
“We must reject unequivocally the false charges—Read More From Source