Fights over police brutality began not long ago in Minneapolis when a video of George Floyd, a black man who died after an arresting officer pressed his knee onto his neck, was released into mainstream media. Almost immediately, conversations ensued surrounding police brutality, the widespread sharing of black murder, and protesting.
While the Minneapolis cop in the video, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and was accused of third-degree murder and homicide last Friday, a public dispute on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement has continued to major cities across the country.
Despite the fact that Minneapolis remains the focal point of rioting and protests amassing in the hundreds, there have been escalating protests nationwide. As riots ensue: conversations surrounding productive activism, the ethics of looting, and destroying property are constantly streaming themselves across the internet.
President Trump has weighed in on the situation, deploying National Gaurd and encouraging Governors to mandate early curfews, increase police presence, and suppress protestor turnout. But the fact is, the conversation of riots needs to be held anyway from the legacy of Black Lives Matter. It’s villanizes the movement’s inherent peaceful nature, as many black activists have taken to social media in arms against violence.
Riots and violent rhetoric have long been heralded as markers of patriotism. But, Black rebellion and anger have historically never been coupled with allegiance to American democracy. I recently went to the Brooklyn-based Prospect Park protests that quickly grew into a march down on Flatbush Avenue. Police presence was high, and reinforcements were brought continuously in as protestors were blocking intersections.
While I was there peaceful protesting ensued even as police were pushing protestors onto the sidewalk against efforts to socially distance. Many individuals showed solidarity with other protestors by distributing tear gas equipment, signs, and water bottles. Some even attempted, to hold space with the police officers. This was not the narrative that was shared online and often times the real narrative that was completely disrupted at nightly protests.
The language used to refer to protesters in recent days has included nothing short of looters, thugs, and even undeserving of American citizenship. The philosophy of force and violence to obtain freedom has long been employed by white people and explicitly denied to movements surrounding rights for people of color. And as many online have said and as the onslaught of media will show, the vast majority of protestors vying for property destruction and often fighting a different fight once the sun sets, are white.
“This is not a black woman who’s putting ‘Black Lives Matter,'” one protestor told Twitter. “I just want you to know that … y’all doing that for us and we didn’t ask you to do that. Don’t spray stuff on here when they gonna blame black people for this. They gonna blame that on us.”
Protestors are not going to agree on all tactics, but the countless videos showing white protestors defacing storefronts, setting fire to the property, may aid in efforts to later endanger black lives, communities, and movements. And while many account white rioters to be a part of Antifa, an umbrella term for anti-fascists and anarchists there is scant evidence to back these claims.
In the past few days, the media has seen NYPD vans burning, Soho completely destroyed and looted, the streets of New York looking similar to that of a war scene. But we have also seen a viral video of NYPD officers running over protestors, a black Senator being pepper-sprayed and handcuffed while protesting for peace, and countless other individuals physically attacked for standing their ground.
But while this truth and blatant disregard for black lives needs to be held to a standard of utmost importance, all evidence has not been completely reckoned with. While many speakers of the Black Live Matter Movement and activists alike have repeatedly taken to the media to express their growing concern and condemnation of property destruction, police presence has been documented to be an incendiary force. Often pushing protestors in a position where violence is needed.
President Trump has already made many attempts to reconcile with the situation at hand. He has taken to Twitter to not only demoralize Black anger but label Antifa a terrorist organization, even though the law doesn’t allow for such designations. And just recently, teargassed protestors in front of the White House for a photo-op al amid an ongoing, but seemingly forgotten COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing protests and riots are not only a result of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbory, and countless others. A list that goes, even though it should not. There are years of ongoing institutional racism and generations of police brutality and racially motivated killing. Protesters against the brutal killing of George Floyd have been deemed rioters, the narrative of protests has oftentimes shifted away from its initial goal, it’s your American right to protest without being held in contempt.
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