By River Ashe Maynard
May 25 marked a turning point in the prolonged and evident struggle against police brutality and racism. That day, a black man named George Floyd was suffocated to death by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes — over a counterfeit $20 bill.
His last words called out for air, and for his mother.
His death sparked international outrage, with protests from all U.S. states and other countries such as France, Germany and more, according to CNN. Just over three months later, the protests have not died down, but instead growing in strength and intensity across the U.S., despite reduced or completely absent media coverage.
The response to the unifying outrage from the state and federal governments has been underwhelming, compared to the scale of the demand for change. On May 29, President Donald Trump took to Twitter several times as the protests grew in size, calling minority protesters “thugs” and insinuating that a continuation of the supposed violence would be met with the armed forces — specifically, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
Surely he isn’t speaking of the violence, instigated and perpetuated by the overzealous police departments committing war crimes, against peaceful citizens utilizing their Constitutional right to protest. Or the deaths, disabilities and grievous wounds caused by white-supremacized police, in their efforts to prove that they aren’t the brutal, unnecessarily aggressive and overprotected force that the protesters claim they are.
Someone like Linda Tirado, a freelance reporter from Tennessee, can attest to their aggression, since one of their rubber bullets cost her an eye at a protest May 29, according to The New York Times. The use of “less than lethal force” such as rubber bullets and tear gas against peaceful protesters — some of whom are teenagers and children — is unnecessarily terrible in itself, but aggression against reporters and legal observers is an act against freedom of the press.
The President insists that the violence is the fault of the protesters who smashed windows and looted buildings in June. Interestingly, he conveniently ignores the fact that those people, by video documentation and admissions, were proven to actually be undercover cops and white supremacists hijacking the true purpose of the movement — to give a voice to those who demand justice.
In spite of, or perhaps in sympathy with, a disastrously ignorant and racist President, state governments have been slow to respond to and act on the demands of the hundreds of thousands of protesters, leaving the budgets of police departments as overinflated as usual and keeping qualified immunity for the officers in place.
However, some states like Colorado have taken appropriate measures to begin the reconstruction of the inherently racist police systems, such as passing a bill to end qualified immunity in relation to state constitutional claims, according to Forbes. Other states like Virginia have bills being considered to do the same, and to end no-knock police raids — one of which caused the senseless and horrific murder of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor, while she slept in her home, in March.
Major cities such as Portland are still in the midst of major protests and clashes with the police, protestors unwavered by the passing of time or pressures from opposing groups. Donations to the Black Lives Matter cause, the GoFundMe fundraisers for the funerals of people killed by police or wounded in the protests, and collected funds for protesters facing prosecution are highly encouraged in this time, as well as the support and patronage of black-owned businesses.
Writing letters to government officials is also a great way to help. Letters and calls from activists expressing indignance that the killers of Breonna Taylor are still walking free and enjoying their lives can be directed to the office of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Officers John Mattingly, Brett Hankison, Joshua Jaynes, and Myles Cosgrove — all but Hankinson still employed.
The easiest way to protest without going out and participating in a rally, is to be vocal and not just a performative ally. Call out racist relatives, friends and neighbors, sign petitions, pen letters, listen to the black leaders and voices of this movement, examine subtle racist behavior in your personal life, and show support openly and brazenly if it is safe to do so.
The protests across the country have been going strong for months, and with COVID-19 restrictions limiting how many people can go back to work, there has never been more of an opportunity for people to join the movement, both in person and online, to help mark this historic and turbulent point in United States history.