Protesters rallied in the streets surrounded by police officers, some police protected them and others were not so kind. Buildings and businesses were burned and looted as the owners begged for mercy. All of this sounds terrifying, yet this is the reality that the country faced after the murder of George Floyd, on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN. This will go down in history as one of the most monumental movement’s the world has ever seen.
George Floyd was accused by a shop owner of using a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill to pay for his cigarettes at the convenience store. The owner immediately called 911 upon realizing, and police officers approached the scene. Bystanders surrounded and watched as Floyd was pinned to the ground under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. He stayed in this position for approximately eight and a half minutes as Floyd pleaded for mercy.
“ I can’t breathe.”
This is a quote that has influenced the protests everywhere and was also said by Floyd approximately thirty times during these eight minutes. Chauvin did not remove his knee until after Floyd laid lifeless on the street for approximately three minutes. Say his name.
The protests address incidents of police brutality to the African American community beyond the George Floyd tragedy. On May 13, 2020, in Louisville, KY, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot five times in her apartment due to the police suspecting her possible involvement in the drug trade. No previous felony convictions and unarmed, police discovered no evidence linking Breonna Taylor to the drug trade. Her murderers walk free to this day. Say her name.
These two are not the only incidents of police brutality due to race that have happened. Atatiana Jefferson was shot in front of her eight-year-old nephew in her home. Stephon Clark was shot twenty times in his grandmother’s backyard after police believed he was holding a gun-he was holding his telephone. Botham Jean was sitting on his couch eating ice cream when a police officer entered his apartment claiming “she thought it was hers” and he was an intruder. He was shot and killed. The list is unfortunately long and grows day by day. Protesters are demanding justice for the violent crimes committed against these African Americans who did nothing wrong. Say their names.
People asked these African Americans to peacefully protest, to take a stand in a non-violent manner. African American NFL players kneeled for the national anthem and President Trump issued a statement saying that protesters kneeling was “total disrespect of our heritage.” He then called for anyone who kneeled to be fired. The president and the other people who backed this statement wanted them to stand up. So they did. They rose from their knees and began to protest peacefully with signs and chants.
There will be no silence until justice is served. Police officers should not use their batons and tear gas to silence the non-violent protesters who crowd the streets; that only feeds the fire, giving protesters more reason to believe there is police brutality towards innocent people. The government has to understand that the African American community and its allies are not asking for more rights than anyone else has. They are protesting for equal rights, they are protesting for the rights that some take for granted.
Yet this movement, fighting for basic human rights, has become one of the most controversial movements of our time. Texas teacher Lillian White was fired for wearing a mask that read “Black Lives Matter” in her classroom. People have vandalized murals that promote the movement, and people are taking this one step further than destroying artwork and beginning to destroy lives. People have incited terror in crowds as they drive their vehicles into the crowds of protestors. This is becoming a more and more common occurrence, happening for a variety of reasons. In fact, according to USA Today “cars have hit people 104 times since George Floyd protests began”.
It is time to wipe the tear gas from our eyes and see that there is a much larger issue at this point than the African Americans and their allies fighting for equal rights. Are we truly the nation we claim to be, what values do our actions speak? The reality is that all lives do not, will not, and cannot matter until we actually respect all lives, including black lives. This movement has incited panic from racist people that African Americans are finally getting closer to having equal rights. The “whites only signs” have been replaced with “all lives matter signs”. But no lives matter until black lives matter. You can not silence them, and they will not stop fighting for equality and justice. Through the tear gas and horrific things being yelled, they will not stop fighting. African American rights are human rights, they deserve to be treated as such, and we will not stop until they are.