Thumbnail image photographed by Kate Schauss in Raleigh, NC.
Written by Mona Dougani, Naomi Matthusen, and Nicholas Wilson
As protests continue into their second week, demonstrators continue to express their undeniable rage over the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd. Alongside Minneapolis, cities all across the country are seeing outbreaks of protests (Pries, 2020). Most medium to large-sized cities, and even some small cities, have had protests this past weekend, but some of the biggest and most-covered protest cities include Minneapolis, Atlanta, DC, Dallas, New York City, and Houston.
As violence becomes a marker of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, some supporters of the cause are questioning whether the protests have gone too far. Initially, the protests began peacefully, but vandalism, arson, and violence quickly took over the Minnesota protests, alongside many other cities. In response, many states have requested more National Guard officers to repress the violence (“Minnesota calls”, 2020). Police officers and the National Guard have responded by firing rubber bullets, spraying chemical agents, and spreading tear gas to move crowds back (Wagner, 2020). Some supporters of the BLM movement argue that the violence diminishes the credibility and authority of the movement; however, other supporters find that violence is the only way to achieve real change, given that they have already attempted peaceful protesting.
Because of the increase in violence, especially vandalism and looting, inter-city businesses are already beginning to suffer. In Minneapolis and St. Paul alone, over 270 businesses had been vandalized or looted by the end of the 6th day of protests (“A Much-Needed”, 2020), and, in Pittsburgh, wooden slats cover the windows where protesters have shattered the glass. Some businesses have already begun shutting down because of safety or economic consequences, and thus further demonstrations could negatively impact inter-city businesses even more.
These protestors make up a variety of ages, races, and opinions. Younger people and older people and people are flooding the streets, and many different races and ethnicities, including black, white, and Native American, are actively exercising their First Amendment right in cities. Some protesters continue to follow healthy protocols under the current pandemic by wearing masks and attempting to keep a 6 foot distance during protests, while others argue that systematic racism is a much bigger problem at the moment than the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the large numbers of civilians within close proximity of each other in these protests, it remains to be seen whether the United States will see an increase in cases of COVID-19.
Below, protests in major cities across the globe are outlined in greater depth.
In Minneapolis, the heart of the rage, civilians have been protesting for 6 nights straight. On the first night, demonstrators vandalized the police department’s third precinct, spray painting the exterior of the building and throwing rocks at police cars (Garger, 2020). On the second night, protesters started breaking the precinct’s windows and, on the third night, protesters lit the precinct on fire (Gutierrez, Li, and Romero, 2020) In response, police fired bean bag rounds, sprayed chemical agents, and spread tear gas to push the protesters back. On the third night, Mayor Jacob Frey declared a State of Emergency, deploying around 500 National Guard officers to Minneapolis (“Protests explode”, 2020).
Live-streamed arrests and increased National Guard officers transpired the fourth day. At 5:11 am, Omar Jimenez, a CNN Reporter of African-American and Colombian descent, was arrested on live television (“Black CNN reporter”, 2020). On the same day, Governor Walz signed an executive order sending more National Guard officers to Minneapolis, and, by the 6th day of riots, over 2,500 officers had been deployed (Hammond, 2020). Derek Chauvin was also charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on this same day (“‘Absolute Chaos'”, 2020), though he now faces second-degree murder charges in addition to his earlier charges (Chappell, 2020). The other three police officers have also since been charged with aiding and abetting for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter (Chappell, 2020).
The last two days incited even more uncertainty and violence into the American public, as sources cited civilians coming from outside of the city to demolish property and as a trailer tractor drove into the middle of thousands of protesters (Collings & Shockman, 2020) (McBride, 2020). Minnesota Public Radio determined that about 80% of the population in the riots have been coming from out of state (Collings & Shockman, 2020), and Governor Walz declared that these outside members were part of “an organized attempt to destabilize civil society” (Condon & Van Oot, 2020). The next day, when the driver of the tractor trailer drove into the huge crowd of protesters on the highway, the driver was pulled out of the vehicle and suffered minor injuries, going to the hospital afterwards and then being charged with assault (McBride, 2020).
What began at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters as a peaceful protest, to fight against police brutality and for the Black Lives Matter movement, turned violent on Friday, May 29, in downtown Detroit. Around sixty people were arrested, and a 21-year-old man was shot and killed by an unknown suspect near the Congress and Randolph areas.
After 9 pm on Saturday, the second day of the protests, a new crowd entered the streets of downtown Detroit. At 10 pm, violence ensued as there were flashes of explosions from unknown objects, arrests from police, and protesters shooting fireworks. By 11 pm, police began firing tear gas at protesters to disperse demonstrators. Police then began firing rubber bullets as tension escalated throughout the evening until 1 am.
Detroit Mayor announced that a curfew would begin at 8 pm on Sunday, May 31. Tension continued to escalate between demonstrators and police officers after 8 pm as police began arresting demonstrators who refused to leave. The fourth day of protests, June 1, was the most peaceful day, which resulted in only forty arrests by police, and on Tuesday, June 2, crowds gathered for the protest around 4 pm and some individuals were arrested at 9 pm for breaking curfew.
On Friday night, the CNN Center in Atlanta became the epicenter of the city’s protest (Dwyer, 2020). Starting off peacefully and becoming violent later in the evening, protesters began vandalizing the CNN sign outside of the media giant’s national headquarters. Police officers met the vandals outside of the CNN Center, eventually moving inside of the building as protesters became more violent, throwing random objects and setting police cars on fire. Protesters threw large objects at the glass windows and doors, breaking the entryway, and then proceeding to throw objects at the police officers, including glass and a firecracker (Dwyer, 2020).
As of Thursday, June 4th, protesters began demonstrations for the seventh straight day. This past weekend, the scene outside of the White House was particularly tense, as protesters expressed their sincere frustration right toward the death of Minnesota’s George Floyd. Protesters screamed chants, such as “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” (Smith, 2020). As the protest became particularly intense on Friday night, according to CNN, Trump was taken into the bunker of the White house for protection (Collins & Gray, 2020). However, Fox News quotes Donald Trump’s statements, where he denies ever going into the Bunker. Trump says, “I went down during the day and I was there for a tiny little short period of time and it was much more for an inspection” (Musto, 2020).
On Saturday, police, with batons and pepper spray, stood at a standoff with protesters outside of the White House, when, eventually, protesters pulled the metal standing barricades between them away from policemen (Smith, 2020). The National Guard was also called in, as violence erupted in different parts of the crowd (Smith, 2020).
On Monday, police used tear gas, smoke, pepper, and rubber bullets to drive the crowd out of the president’s pathway, allowing President trump to make his way to St. John’s Church to meet the media (Boykin, 2020). Before making his way to St. John’s, President Trump called for the National Guard to be deployed and for law enforcement in cities to have a tougher response to protesters (Boykin, 2020). At St. John’s, President Trump met with the media to take pictures. Later that night, Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed her frustration, explaining that it was “shameful” how law enforcement (Behrmann, 2020), upon President Trump’s orders, removed protesters from the White House before the curfew began (Boykin, 2020). Later that night, protesters also burned St. John’s basement and nursery down (Boykin, 2020).
In Dallas, Texas, protests started peacefully, like in other cities across the nation, but the tension between protestors and police escalated. Tear gas was fired by police on Saturday, May 30, and businesses in downtown Dallas began to board up their windows to prepare for more violence. According to Officer Renee Hall, protesters began throwing bricks at officers and squad cars.
On Monday, about 700 protesters were arrested in Dallas and will face a class B misdemeanor charge for blocking the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Trinity Grove. Due to this, the city of Dallas leaders extended the curfew to include Deep Ellum, Uptown, Victory Park, West Village, and Trinity groves, within the boundaries. Although protesters were peaceful, they will still face criminal charges because blocking the road is illegal, according to Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall.
After the events that happened at Monday night’s protest, protesters in Dallas continued to march the streets on Tuesday evening, June 2. Some protestors moved locations from downtown Dallas to Lake Cliff Park to continue the protest past the 7 pm curfew.
New York, NY
On Saturday, May 30, protestors took to the streets in New York City, and the rally began on 125th street in Harlem, heading to Washington Square Park, and eventually further downtown. That evening, protests took place in Brooklyn in the Flatbush neighborhood, where protesters became violent, and the police began to use force. According to the New Yorker, “some protestors burned police cars and erected barricades using trash. Some threw bricks and bottles at police” (The New Yorker). In Brooklyn, and New York City, police arrested hundreds of protestors, used pepper spray, and batons on protestors, and a police S.U.V even rammed into protestors near Prospect Park.
Protests continued in New York City on Sunday, May 31, where protestors met at Bryant Park and began rallying at 5:00 pm by chanting phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace” and “George Floyd” (David Propper and Pete Caldera). Protestors eventually reached Times Square at 6:15 pm, where they kneeled and took a moment of silence. The protest remained peaceful, until around 10 PM, when looting began in Lower Manhattan. By the end of the night, 345 people were arrested, 33 officers were injured, and 27 police vehicles were damaged, according to David Propper and Pete Caldera, writers of North Jersey.
On Monday, June 1, Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that there would be a curfew, from 11 pm to 5 am, to discourage looting and violence. Monday night protests were relatively peaceful; however, looters continued to damage various stores, such as a Foot Locker on 716 Broadway. Mayor de Blasio, issued a new curfew for Tuesday evening, June 2, starting at 8 pm, to further diminish the incidents of looting. According to the New York Times, after the 8 pm curfew was in effect, there were fewer violent confrontations and incidents of looting.
St. Paul, MN
Protesters were demonstrating peacefully on Interstate 94 as they marched toward Pennsylvania. Police respond by attempting to disperse the crowd, even though there have been no indications of harm towards the city or others. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has commented on the protests heading towards Pennsylvania, saying, “I urge everyone to be peaceful. I urge everyone to have respect for our communities and our neighbors. I urge all of us to continue to call out injustice. I don’t want to lose sight of why we are here.” Most governors have responded to these riots by calling on the National Guard but urge citizens to protest peacefully.
“Peaceful protests” in Sacramento California abrupt into what’s said to be a mixture of peaceful protesting and “borderline anarchy”. Police responded to the protests with rubber bullets and by forcing crowds to disperse. As of Wednesday, June 4, over 150 businesses in Sacramento have been affected by the chaos, and there have been over $10 million in estimated damages. The state responded by enforcing the protection of the city and businesses with the National Guard.
Protests in Nashville, Tennessee have been marked by “people from other states” attempting to set courthouses ablaze and damage historical monuments like the Ryman Auditorium, which is commonly known as a historic country music icon was damaged due to its “representation to confederate history”. Lootings around Nashville have affected a majority of small businesses that were previously struck by a devastating tornado that affected the state earlier this year. Due to protests and demonstrations, 30 more businesses are either going out of business or now have significant damages. Locals have been cooperating with officers by cleaning up damages together. Once again, after Tennessee gets hurt, the community works together to rebuild itself.
Governors have encouraged protests but expressed disappointment for the violence that has resulted. This has caused governors to promote peaceful protesting, instituting a curfew to prevent these public threats. Governors are also concerned with a possible spike in COVID-19 as cases increase to 1.8 million.
Global Protests Rage Outside of the United States
Even outside of the United States, angry civilians take to the streets in the name of George Floyd (Hagemann, 2020). Protests are taking place in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Iran, and New Zealand. In Berlin, protesters gathered for several days in a row, demonstrating outside of the U.S. Embassy. In London, hundreds took a knee for 9 minutes, the amount of time that Officer Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck (Hagemann, 2020). In Paris, protesters kneeled and put their fists in the air for Floyd, also setting fires and chanting, “I can’t breathe” (Corbet & Garriga, 2020).
On social media, many across the world also joined in on the #BlackOutTuesday campaign, in which protesters post all black photos on Instagram with solemn, mourning captions to demonstrate their anger toward the George Floyd situation. Regardless of nationality, age, gender, or race, protesters everywhere are finding various ways to seek justice for and avenge the death of young Minneapolis resident, George Floyd.