“Gandhi Mahal may have felt the flames last night, but our [fiery] drive to help protect and stand with our community will never die!!”
- Hafsa Islam, a daughter of a restaurant owner in Minneapolis whose restaurant burned down during the protests
Ways Protesters Showed Up for Black Lives
Amid the outpouring of outrage over George Floyd’s killing, are glimpses of solidarity and hope
June 10, 2020
by Lornet Turnbull
In the past couple of weeks, demonstrations have erupted in big and small cities across the United States and in countries around the world over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Amid the outpouring of outrage over Floyd’s death, the killing of Breonna Taylor by a police officer in Louisville, Kentucky, and of Ahmaud Arbery by vigilantes in Georgia, along with pent-up anger, exhaustion, and fear experienced by Black, Brown, and Indigenous people facing structural racism and systemic disparities, are glimpses of solidarity and hope.
Here are some takeaways.
•An unprecedented number of protests have taken place across all 50 states. And hundreds of small cities and towns are protesting. Here’s why that’s a big deal.
• Throughout Europe, across Latin America and in parts of the Middle East, protesters took to the streets in a powerful display of solidarity with U.S. demonstrators. In Brazil, people joined an existing protest against that country’s hard-line conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro. In Mexico City, portraits of Floyd were hung on the fence outside the U.S. embassy alongside flowers, candles, and signs reading, “Racism kills, here, there, and all over the world.”
• Even as President Trump threatened to deploy the military to quell what he called “domestic terror,” law enforcement in several cities stood with protesters—in some cases marching alongside them. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the police chief told his officers to turn in their badges if they couldn’t see the injustice in Floyd’s death. And in New York City and Coral Gables, Florida, and in demonstrations in Oregon, Iowa, and Kentucky, officers took a knee alongside protesters.
• The owner of an Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant in Minneapolis, whose building had been used as a refuge for demonstrators from police mace, tear gas, and rubber bullets but was later burned down, joined in the global call for justice. His daughter, Hafsa Islam, wrote on Facebook: “Gandhi Mahal may have felt the flames last night, but our [fiery] drive to help protect and stand with our community will never die!” Quoting her father, she said: “Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served. Put those officers in jail.”
• In some cities, movements converged as monuments to the Confederacy or of statues depicting other racist historical figures became obvious targets for demonstrators. In Nashville, Tennessee, for example, protesters toppled a statue of former U.S. Sen. Edward Carmack, who supported lynching. In Richmond, Virginia, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that many have accused of furthering white supremacy.
• Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who chose to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality, is raising money to represent protesters arrested in Minneapolis. Kaepernick announced the Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative on his Instagram page on Friday to pay for legal assistance for protesters. Nationwide, close to 5,000 people have been arrested across the country.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Minnesota Freedom Fund, which is bailing out jailed demonstrators, raised $20 million in the first four days of the protests. The organization said it was no longer actively soliciting donations but instead encouraging people to give to the George Floyd family and other organizations run by Black community members.
• The Hands Up Act, which is an online movement collecting signatures for a petition that would force lawmakers in Washington to consider a measure that would hand down a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for any police officer who shoots an unarmed suspect.
In the days since the demonstration started, he has added more than 450,000 signatures to surpass his goal of 1 million. His new goal is 1.5 million signatures.
• About 75 strangers in a Nashville community, most of them White, walked with a Black man who reached out on social media saying he was afraid to walk in his neighborhood alone. And in Louisville, White protesters lined up to form a human shield between Black protesters and local police. In the same city, Black protesters formed a circle around a White officer separated from his unit.
• Teenagers have been leading protests around the country - from San Francisco to Detroit to Nashville.
• Communities have been supporting these activists by donating to mutual aid groups, who were then out in the streets handing out free water, snacks, and masks.
• Groceries and supplies have been flooding in to help families living in areas impacted by the protests and looting.
•City bus drivers in New York, Minneapolis, and San Francisco refused to help law enforcement transport people to jails.
•When the riots and protests broke out in Minneapolis, community members took over a hotel to house their homeless neighbors.
•And when curfews went into effect, local residents opened up their homes to keep people safe.
With pressure mounting, the police are starting to be held accountable:
•The four officers involved in George Floyd’s death were fired, arrested, and charged.
• In Atlanta, six police officers—two fired, four put on administrative leave--have been charged with using excessive force during a protest.
• A Denver police officer was fired after calling for violence on social media.
• A police chief was fired after two of his police officers who hadn’t activated their body cameras killed a black business owner during a protest.
• Two police officers in Buffalo, NY were charged with assault after pushing a 75-year-old activist to the ground.
• Police officers in New York can now be charged with a felony for using a chokehold because of this bill that passed in the New York Assembly.
With calls growing to defund the police, cities are starting to listen:
• Thanks to organizing and continued pressure by the People’s Budget LA, Los Angeles announced they will cut $150 million from the LAPD this year. This is good, but still not enough.
•New York announced it will make cuts to the NYPD’s $6 billion budget and shift funds to youth and social services. And 50 City Council candidates have called for $1 billion in cuts.
•A college student created this list highlighting all of the New York lawmakers who received police contributions—and now some of them are donating the funds and vowing not to accept similar money in the future.
• The University of Minnesota cancelled its contract with the police, then the Minneapolis public school board voted to do the same, followed by the city’s parks department.
• Nine members—a veto-proof majority—of the Minneapolis City Council announced that they plan to dismantle the police department and replace it with a community-based model of public safety. This would not have been possible without the support and demands from the Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. Organizer Kandace Montgomery had this to say when describing this new vision for the future:
“A world without police would look like safety that is controlled and is led by our community, that focuses on transformation and transformative justice. A world without police means that everybody has what they need to survive and what they need to live healthy lives. It means we have the money that we need for education, health care, housing, workers’ rights. It is a total transformation away from a racist and violent system into one that truly fosters our safety and well-being.”
More statues honoring racist leaders are coming down:
• In Virginia, a statue honoring Robert E. Lee is being removed from the state’s capitol, a 176-year-old slave auction block is finally gone, and a statue of a confederate general was torn down.
• Another Robert E. Lee statue was removed from downtown Fort Myers, FL.
• Philadelphia, PA removed a statue of the city’s former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo.
• A confederate statue in Bentonville, AR will be removed from the downtown square.
• Birmingham, AL removed a monument to confederate troops.
• In Bristol, UK, people threw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into a river.
And some other news:
• After an NFL employee “went rogue” by reaching out to black players to create this powerful video, the NFL was forced to admit it was wrong about its response to Black Lives Matter and peaceful protests. There is a lot more that needs to happen here, but it seems like a start.
• A group of college football players marched in honor of George Floyd – and then registered to vote.
• Voters in Ferguson, Missouri elected Ella Jones as their first black and first female mayor.
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