Tipping point – the murder of George Floyd
On the 25th of May an unarmed and handcuffed black man was killed by police in Minneapolis, not with guns but by an officer kneeling on his throat for up to nine minutes, long past when he fell unconscious. As the incident was caught on camera, it quickly became a scandal and a rallying point for people all across the US demanding police reform and accountability.
The officers at the scene have since been fired and are under FBI investigation, however protests over the murder have taken on a life of their own, with peaceful protesters and rioters alike decrying a wide range of systemic injustices.
The ‘Bitcoin guy’
The murder of George Floyd was the spark that set off the powder keg, but the people of his community have suffered injustices of many kinds over the years. The US banking system is notorious for obscene fees and predatory practices targeting the poor – of whom disproportionately many are black. So while in no way the focus of the protests, it is not surprising that we would see a few signs promoting crypto and telling people to opt out of a system built to take advantage of them.
A photo circulating on Twitter shows one such protester, wearing a cardboard sign with the text ‘Bitcoin will save us’ emblazoned on the front. Reactions have been mixed – it may be seen as poor taste to advertise a financial product in the wake of a murder. But the essence of cryptocurrency and of Bitcoin is choice – the ability to opt out of systems that do not work for you. And that is a message that should resonate with many of the protesters. The police do not serve them. Food stores are few and far between in poor areas, creating food deserts. And banks, above all, have no interest in them unless they can levy heavy fees and be the gatekeeper to transactions.
Bitcoin and crypto allows you to say no. You can be your own bank, and not put your trust in a broken system. Among the many buildings burned and vandalized in the riots, it is not a surprise that several of them were banks. As the protest and riots play out and communities begin to rebuild, there will be more than a few who look for alternatives to the old. And for banking, they will find them in crypto.