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The most dramatic development in the United States in recent months to my mind was the sustained nationwide protests against two related events: the deaths of several African-American men and teenagers at the hands of police, and the decisions by the judicial system not to prosecute anyone for the deaths.This situation also reflected the fears of many more Americans who saw what, to them, seemed a dysfunctional or prejudiced judicial system that allowed the deaths of the young black men to pass without judicial proceedings to discover if the police had acted illegally, unprofessionally or unethically.So during the last weeks of my extended visit to the United States this autumn, I sought out activists and organizers to learn more about the causes and consequences of the protests.The extra costs of overtime for police personnel due to the protests – which amounted to some $2 million in Boston and Massachusetts during the initial weeks of protests – also captured the attention of officialdom.When I attended a training session for mostly young black, Hispanic and white activists in a downtown Boston hall, the emphasis was on nonviolent civil action and street protests, how to act when confronted by police, what information to gather when arrested, and how to communicate with others.
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