With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people afraid and shut in their homes for the better part of three months, thousands were brought out of that uncertain state by outrage over the barbaric and callous killing of a handcuffed man on a busy street in Minneapolis, by a seemingly determined and indifferent then-police officer, Derek Chauvin.
From Minneapolis to New York to Atlanta to Alaska, the death of Black, unarmed George Floyd has caused a ripple effect across the nation with protests calling for changes in the way America polices its Black citizens. In the week after the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis of Floyd, which was caught on video, reaction to the Black man’s death has resulted in mass demonstrations resulting in over 5,600 people being arrested, police taking a heavy hand and even Pres. Donald Trump calling for military enforcement to quell the chaos.
Reports indicate that as of June 1, more than 200 U.S. cities have seen protests ranging from major metropolitan cities to small rural communities in reaction to Floyd’s death with chants of “I can’t breathe!” and “Black Lives Matter!” Activists say that while the graphic video of Floyd’s death is causing reaction, constant confrontations and mistreatment by police towards Black citizens is fanning the flames.
Cities like Mayor Ras Baraka’s Newark, in New Jersey proudly noted their violence-free protests, while New York City communities joined those across the nation in identifying and demanding that agitators take their undeclared projects elsewhere.
Officers arrested, charges upgraded
The other 3 cops involved in the Floyd case, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kuenghave, been arrested and charged; and Chauvin’s charge has been upgraded to 2nd-degree murder.
Outing agent-provocateurs has become something of an instant consequential repercussion; from outing white women scrawling “BLM” for Black Lives Matter on an L.A. Starbucks, to turning over a white demonstrator who was destroying property to assembled cops.
As the after-dark protests became more violent, many Black activists charged that some groups were enacting insidious agendas at the expense of Black pain. The angst of an outraged community must not be used to further the programs of other opportunistic groups, slammed New Black Panther activist Divine Allah.
“It has been said that local and national authorities should be glad that all the youth are looking for is equality, and not revenge,” said the New Jersey-based activist and community leader. “The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Artery, Breonna Taylor demands a fundamental shift in thinking and behavior. The youth are using the language of the unheard, political policymakers should use what they have to bring accountability and responsibility to those who have brought us to this civil unrest and national tensions. We need them to have other avenues of expression like self-sustaining communities. We have to teach them about self-empowerment, and self-determination.”
This week saw mainstream media reporting the speculation that far-right fascist groups have infiltrated and organized the wholesale violence.
About a dozen major cities, including New York, have implemented some type of curfew in an effort to keep people out of the streets and to curb violence. “The uprising spreading across this country is fueled by systemic racial issues that have been ingrained in the fabric of this nation for decades,” said NAACP Pres. Derrick Johnson. “As we’ve seen over the last few days, these issues have now manifested into anger, sadness, fear, and confusion. Many throughout the country are left to consider at this moment after watching the horrific footage of George Floyd: When is enough, enough?” Protests in Minneapolis began the day after Floyd was killed. Violence soon began with the fatal shooting of a man accused of robbing a pawn shop by the store’s owner. Images of fires began making their way across news networks including the burning of a Minneapolis police precinct. While most of the protests have been peaceful, some have been seen looting and vandalizing. A reported 170 businesses in Minneapolis have been damaged. In a now viral video from Minneapolis, activist Tamika Mallory said the reason buildings are burning is because Black Americans have had enough. “There’s an easy way to stop it. Arrest the cops. Charge the cops. Charge all the cops—not just some of them, not just here in Minneapolis,” Mallory said. “Charge them in every city across America where our people are being murdered. Charge them everywhere. That’s the bottom line. Charge the cops. Do your job. Do what you say this country is supposed to be about, ‘the land of the free’ for all. It has not been free for Black people, and we are tired.”
Young people have repeated verbatim that they are tired of the repeated murderous scenarios of Black people like Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Timothy Stansbury, Sean Bell and Breonna Taylor, while law enforcement have found their killers largely unaccountable. Many young Black people, some with face-coverings and gloves, have taken to the streets to voice their anger and frustration. This latest episode has made militant activists out of armchair observers, and has some sympathetic white people, agitators, and out-of-the area opportunists in large numbers fill the screens and front pages in many American cities.
The rebellion is being televised. After the initial righteous indignation that saw Black people in the all-too-familiar post-police brutality street protests, came the much ramped up torching of police cars, precincts and the clearing out of stores, and the organized predominantly white mass demonstration nationwide, oft times donning the cursory ‘Black Lives Matter’ paraphernalia.
As Trump declares that he will deploy the military to cities, police have already been accused of using excessive force in several instances. He recently incited anger after calling protesters “THUGS” and for declaring in a tweet that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet was flagged by Twitter for glorifying violence. In New York City, the first protest took place on May 28 in Union Square resulting in 72 arrests. Demonstrations have also taken place in all five boroughs. Hundreds of people have been arrested over the last several days including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter Chiara. The city has also seen the looting of stores and fires, including one notable incident where a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a police van. The NYPD has been caught on video several times using excessive force including the ramming of a police vehicle into a crowd of people in Brooklyn, an officer slamming a woman into the ground and an officer pulling the mask off a Black man who had his hands up and spraying him with pepper spray. “I want to try again to help the people of the city understand there is no situation where a police vehicle should drive into a crowd of protestors or New Yorkers of any kind. It is dangerous,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It is unacceptable.”
On Monday, June 1, the December 12th Movement held a Black Power March and Rally on the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Thousands gathered to demand justice for George Floyd and to demand human rights for all Black people. The organized and disciplined march began on Fulton Street (co-named Harriett Ross Tubman Ave.) and Nostrand Ave. with the waving of many red, black, and green Black liberation flags. Its first stop was for a rally on the steps of Restoration Plaza.
The December 12th Movement organizers, uniformed in black Malcolm X t-shirts and caps, maintained the huge diverse crowd, while leading chants “No Justice! NoPeace! No racist police!” and calling out the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The speakers included Dec. 12th Chairperson Viola Plummer, Youth Leader Iman Essiet, NYS Assembly Member Charles Barron and NYC Council Member Inez Barron. Plummer told the amassed marchers, “We must be organized. The police in the United States are an organized, well-funded army. They are not spontaneous. If we are serious about taking this down, we have got to be organized!” The people roared and clapped. “We are not going to feed the police department… We are going to be organized and are going to defeat the state apparatus. The police departments across the country have to be defunded.” From there a new demand in people’s solidarity roared, “Defund The Police!”
Assemblyman Charles Barron told the Brooklyn rally, “No force on earth can stop the people on the move. No technology can stop us. No police can stop us. We will win, history is on our side. We have more numbers than them. In unity there is strength. Let’s be smart, let’s be intelligent. We will stay permanently in the street and shut this government down.”
They marched across Atlantic Avenue to the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where they were watched, but did not interact with about 20 officers armed in riot gear who were guarding the entrance. Thousands of marchers surrounded them, chanting “Defund the Police! No Justice! No Peace! No Racist Police!”
“One down, three to go! We demand that all four [officers] are charged with murder,” said Brooklyn City Council Member Inez Barron.
Ellisha Flagg Garner, sister of Eric Garner told the Amsterdam News, “It’s like it is happening all over again. It is like a re-enactment. That is why my mom talked to George Floyd’s family, because we know what they are going through. We wanted them to know that they are not alone. We were grateful that people felt our pain six years ago, and they were willing to risk their lives, and took time out of their busy lives to stand beside us to let the world know it was wrong.”
Kadiatou Diallo is the mother of Amadou Diallo, who NYPD officers killed in a hail of 41 bullets in 1999, causing extensive international outrage. She told the Amsterdam News,
“When I heard about George Floyd, I reached out to my sister Gwen Carr [mother of Eric Garner], because we are all going through this. The Netflix docu series ‘41 Shots’ about the death of my son just came out, and so I had to tell my grandchildren what happened to their uncle. Back in 1999, when I crossed the ocean to come to New York, I said that it should never happen again. But here we are again.
America has to deal with these families––these mothers and fathers and siblings and those children who might be taken. ..We are going to meet the family of George, we need to keep them close and comfort them because we need each other.”
Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr told the Amsterdam News that seeing Floyd “lose his life the way he did was to open a wound that is not even healed yet. I think we have to keep the pressure on. We can’t let them sweep this under the rug like they have done with so many other cases.”
Aside from staying in the street and rallies, Carr said she is holding elected representatives accountable. We have to keep going, go to the Albany lawmakers––not letters, on the phone or emails. We do it face-to-face and repeat our demands. You must remind them that we put you in office and we can take you out. ..bring something to table that’s going to be appeasing to us when I go to vote for you?
Meanwhile, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, in Atlanta, a protest attended by hundreds of people occurred in Centennial Olympic Park in the city’s downtown area. Demonstrators took to the streets and vandalized the CNN Center and also put a police car on fire. One video showed Atlanta police officers stopping a car with two Black college students and pulling out and tasering the male and female passenger before arresting them. No clear cause was given for the arrest, however police say they were trying to enforce the city’s recent curfew. Two officers involved in the incident were fired. Chicago is also considered a hotspot for protests, which began on May 28. The city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, compared the death of Floyd to the 2014 police murder of Laquan McDonald. Crowds of protesters in the Windy City have grown as large as 3,000. While most of the protests have been peaceful, demonstrators have reportedly thrown fireworks and bottles at police. Several demonstrations have been taking place at Trump Tower. “It’s not easy when we have a president who is inciting violence,” Lightfoot said. “Let’s be better than him.”
Meanwhile Brooklynite Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, prepared to lead simultaneous memorial prayer services in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, June 4; his family is also getting ready to host funeral services in Houston, Texas.