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Where are the protests? Firearms overtake fireworks as shootings over July 4th weekend leave scores dead in big US cities

Where are the protests? Firearms overtake fireworks as shootings over July 4th weekend leave scores dead in big US cities
The Independence Day weekend turned deadly across the US as 77 people were shot in Chicago alone, continuing a spate of violence that has plagued largely black neighborhoods amid anti-racism protests focused on police brutality.

Between July 3 and July 5, 13 people were fatally shot in Chicago. The latest violence wasn’t out of character in a city that earned the nickname “Chiraq” – likening the bloodshed to that in war-torn Iraq – and where around 80 percent of homicide victims each year are black, according to police data.

Father’s Day weekend last month saw 104 shootings and 14 dead.

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The city suffered its deadliest day in at least six decades on May 31, when 18 people were killed. Chicago had 1,384 shootings in the first six months of 2020, a 45 percent increase from the same point in 2019, according to police figures.

New York City, Atlanta, Milwaukee and other large US cities also registered a spike in violence in recent weeks. The Big Apple had 30 shootings, including 10 fatalities, on July 5 alone. NYPD responded to a 20-year high of 205 shooting incidents in June, compared with 89 a year earlier.

The carnage is taking place at the same time that activist group Black Lives Matter is leading anti-racism protests across the US, after 46-year-old black man George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

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According to data compiled by the Washington Post, nine unarmed black people were shot dead by police in all of 2019, in a nation of 330 million people. Some 1,000 people are killed at the hands of US police annually, and in most cases the shootings are ruled justified. African-Americans accounted for 29 percent of those deaths last year, in cases where the ethnicity of the deceased was reported. 

While unjustified shootings by police are tragic, civilian gun violence can be just as heartbreaking and senseless to those involved, such as the July 4 killing of an 8-year-old black girl in Atlanta. Police say at least two men opened fire after the car in which Secoriya Williamson was riding crossed an illegal barricade that had been set up by protesters.

“They say black lives matter,” said the girl’s father. “You killed your own.”

Speaking at a press conference after the killing, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms lamented a recent surge in black-on-black shootings.

“We're doing each other more harm than any police officer on this force. We've had over 75 shootings in the city over the past several weeks. You can't blame this on a police officer,” she said.

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Black Lives Matter activists have responded to reports of black-on-black violence by denouncing them as attempts to deflect from the “unique horror” of police brutality. 

One of their demands has been to defund police departments across the nation, already resulting in a $1 billion cut to the New York City police budget. 

Critics of the movement point to a 2016 US Department of Justice stud that found that a spike in inner-city homicides may be attributable to the “Ferguson effect” – a breakdown in trust between police and community members, that occurred after the 2014 killing of an 18-year-old black man by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

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