Childish Gambino warned us in 2018. This is America, right?
It’s been a brutal week for anyone who doesn’t live with their eyes closed. The proof is right there on Twitter and other social platforms. It used to be that we relied on police bodycams to hold officers accountable for their actions. But in this difficult moment, citizen journalism is carrying that bucket instead.
Something snapped in the United States as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck until he died on May 25. Floyd was black and Chauvin is white. It was a sadly familiar scene of what looks to rational observers like a clear case of police brutality.
But this time, we hit a breaking point. The gruesome reality of Chauvin’s actions as captured on camera is certainly part of it. He held his position on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, until after the restrained man died. The camera captures it all in vivid, horrifying detail. Add to that the ongoing pandemic, and historic levels of unemployment. People’s nerves are frayed and the callous inhumanity of Floyd’s death was a last straw.
So cities exploded over the weekend with widespread protests and grim scenes of violence. Even as much of the country outside of major cities continues to hunker down behind stay-at-home orders, social media has brought all of us to the front lines through citizen journalism and shared news reports.
These ongoing protests are about stopping racial violence and police brutality, and they’re hundreds of years in the making. I think the images and videos, and the actions of the people portrayed therein, tell the whole story. Thank you to all of the protesters and members of the press who are out there doing your part to make sure the realities of this moment won’t soon be forgotten.
Police just raided the gas station we were sheltering at. After shouting press multiple times and raising my press card in the air, I was thrown to the ground. Then another cop came up and peppered sprayed me in the face while I was being held down. pic.twitter.com/23EkZIMAFC
— Michael Anthony Adams (@MichaelAdams317) May 31, 2020
A reporter interviews a #Minneapolis nurse who was working at the medical tent, treating a man bleeding badly from a rubber bullet wound.
Military police opened fire on the nurses, storming their tent. “I told him I wouldn’t leave him, I feel so bad” 😔 pic.twitter.com/H0RpwwCdgD
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) May 31, 2020
This is outrageous.
Driving police vehicles into crowds of protestors is not deescalation.
Shoving and beating nonviolent people is not deescalation.
If NYPD’s intent is to keep folks safe, this isn’t it. pic.twitter.com/HDlnLcdwqH
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) May 31, 2020
It hasn’t all been as completely terrible as the above visuals suggest. Protesters are out in force and many of them are skipping the violence in favor of working to send a message, lift up the people in their community, and generally just keep the peace. Many others are just doing the best they can to peacefully work through the days, weeks, months, decades of pent-up anger they’ve been carrying.
They’ve even been joined in a few cases by police officers and departments that have managed to maintain a level of trust with their local communities.
I don’t know what else to say. Take care of yourselves, folks. And please, keep on documenting this moment in any way that you can.