Even before the killing of George Floyd, there had been a well-established pattern of oppression by law enforcement agents killing innocent African Americans. Just to name a few, there was Eric Gardner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, all of these citizens were living a peaceful life. And they were shot by police officers, often assumed accidentally. There was national unrest and then it fizzled away, until May 25th, 2020, an ordinary afternoon in Minneapolis, MN. George Floyd had been involved in an altercation with officers over a counterfeit $20 bill. Bystanders recorded that when confronted George Floyd had denied all accusations and had resisted arrest, just like any innocent man would. Minutes later, Officer Derek Chauvin was putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. On the video, you can hear Floyd pleading for help… and later gasping for air, and calling his mother as he took his last breaths. He had yelled he could not breathe, yet there was no reply or change in behavior from his captor. After those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, his body laid there lifeless… Other officers stood by watching the horror unfold and failed to act. Derek Chauvin still with his knee on his neck. This sparked a change in America.1
Immediately, on the day after Officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by denying his right to life, mass protests filled the streets of Minneapolis. During the pandemic, during a stressful time in America, thousands stepped out of their house, risking their lives by contracting Coronavirus to honor the life and fight for beloved George Floyd. Although Black Lives Matter, was a movement before the death of George Floyd, his struggle to breathe gave the most recognizable face for the movement. The agenda of the movement was to hold accountable the officers who have killed innocent black men and women all over the country. At a minimum, officers who killed should be investigated, have charges brought up against them, possibly fire and arrest them for abusing their powers as police officers.2 A police officer’s role is to serve and protect, but how can the Black community feel protected, when they are the ones dying at the hands of Law Enforcement officers who seem to label them as threats no matter the altercation, even for a traffic stop or a disagreement with a store employee over a $20 bill. The next point on the BLM agenda is to defund the police departments nationally. Defunding does not necessarily mean eliminating an agency, but it means to redirect money into another agency that is underpaid from state and federal budgets. Many cases of wrongful deaths by law enforcement included a person with mental disorder or having mental breakdowns. Officers are not trained to deal with these issues, therefore funding programs and mental health workers with the expertise to respond to these calls can much more quickly de-escalate violence rather than kill any and all persons posing a threat. There has been an uproar that the departments are receiving too much money when that can be divided out to healthcare, education, and other organizations that could use the money to enhance the services cities provide for less lethal experiences for all Americans.3 For example, in Tempe, Arizona, the goal for the residents is to use the $22 million in coronavirus relief to the police department to be distributed to free transit passes and affordable housing and Pre-Kindergarten programs. This is a small step for defunding and thus an example of the spectrum that most states are protesting for on top of the arresting of the cops who kill innocent black citizens.4
Now, this is a hard movement to bring about. With the Black Lives Matter movement, you have Blue Lives Matter counter-protests and Back the Blues who argue that Blue lives matter too, suggesting all the police shootings of African Americans are pure self-defense and threatened Police Officers have a right to defend themselves. In this context, some Black Lives Matter protestors explain this frames the issue by prioritizing an occupation before people’s lives. A study on deaths by the National Violent Death Reporting System shows that victims of lethal forces by police officers were 52% Caucasian and 32% African American. But the fatality rate was 2.8 times higher among African Americans.14% were unarmed by African Americans and 9% unarmed by Caucasian and this means unarmed, not firing towards an officer. Which would then lead that African Americans were killed or arrested by police officers more often than Caucasians.5 When BLM protestors state “Black Lives Matter” this does not necessarily mean that they were the only lives who matter, but the fact is African Americans are dying at the hands of law enforcement at much higher rates than any other groups in the US and therefore there is a need to address the problem and redress the deaths with justice. Until Black Lives actually matter and are no longer killed over a traffic stop or $20 bill, ALL lives clearly do NOT matter. This issue had brought out a great divide between the two groups and eventually it had sparked violence.6
In Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, etc. there has been a great number of peaceful protests which have led to many people hospitalized ranging from police officers, nurses, and bystanders. This great divide has been mentioned by different political leaders as well, the Trump administration has labeled the Black Lives Matter movement as ANTIFA, which he has declared a terrorist organization. Trump supporters have followed in his footsteps by saying that the violence that is caused by BLM, is strictly their fault and they should take full responsibility for vandalizing cars, buildings, etc. And that the police officers had a just reason for killing the African Americans because of their heinous criminal background and that they had felt threatened by them. In addition to the fact that the human rights of an individual are easily stripped when such crimes are committed, that officers see them as less than human and more as targets.7 While you have other political leaders, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders, who side with BLM, their side on the issue is that officers should be fired and arrested when killing innocent black men, women, and children. And in serious cases, law enforcement who treat innocent black folks as less than human should be arrested and charged. Any law-abiding citizen can be getting arrested and still be treated with the rights that all humans are guaranteed.8
Before the nationwide peaceful demonstrations, there was the questioning of Breonna Taylor’s case which preceded George Floyds. In this case, BLM took a different turn. Breonna Taylor was sleeping when officers invaded her home and shot her to death. When BLM went out to protest this event the issue was now that black lives cannot feel safe within the vicinity of their own home. A full-time ER technician who helped citizens of the community was violently murdered because cops had decided that it was the house of a suspect, blatantly violating all rights guaranteed by the US Bill of Rights against unreasonable searches and seizure as protected under the 4th Amendment.9 Now, the BLM wanted the police officers arrested, charged, and thrown in jail. But recently it came back that none of the officers were arrested and there was still no justice served in the case of Breonna Taylor. Of course, the boyfriend of Taylor will received compensation for the wrongful death, but there was no true justice. This death was just as enormous as George Floyd’s death. During the protests, police officers did not listen and were still taking the lives of innocent African Americans. Despite the protests, BLM is still not heard. It was not until there was a change in the direction of the movement, the use of social media. It played one of the biggest roles in bringing out the issues around the world that we can see in the vicinity of our homes.10 And this had led to an international problem.
These protests of BLM acquired international support. Poeple all around the world were protesting the loss of innocent Black lives from police brutality and abusive force.11 A reason for this spark was the international use of social media, Twitter, and Instagram. On these websites, people from all over the world have recorded officers, undercover agents, and other state agents killing innocent Black people and this opened the eyes of a lot of other citizens who were not originally on the side of BLM. With the news reports falsifying the causes of deaths, these social media accounts were really able to bring people in on what is actually happening in their country, state, or city. Social media allowed discussions between people on whether killing can ever be ethical. All people are able to tweet their opinion, watch videos of peaceful protests or promote riots, police brutality, and more.12 Many celebrities started speaking out on the issue of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. You have world-class athletes like Lebron James and Serena Williams speaking out for citizens join in BLM and protest. Others oppose BLM saying it is unnecessary to voice concern because all lives matter. This hot debate on social media and news outlets became one of the hottest topics of Summer 2020. Even with the pandemic, millions can be seen protesting these lives, showing the position George Floyd was in when he had innocently died, which was laying on the ground, and in extreme cases, another protestor simulating Derek Chauvin, to signs grieving their deaths, to more people posting video recordings of different police officers. Also, with social media, more people are able to point out the cops who are causing harm to innocent black lives. Of course, camera footage exists, but there have been some cases in which the body-cam never started, resulting in a mysterious death by a police officer. Social media enhances the BLM movement for a plethora of reasons. It is a base for all people to speak out on different issues, and as mentioned earlier, it allows for celebrities in which people emmulate, to get their point across and maybe have more people jump on the side of BLM. And another big point that social media was able to do was contradict the false reports by different departments. Whether it was a Police Department falsifying reports of “riots”, members of the BLM movement were able to refute the issue with video footage and this was a very powerful tool. With having social media, BLM was able to find its base, continue it, and hope that its agenda is reached.
On May 29th, after four days since the death of George Floyd, and three days of international protests, Derek Chauvin was finally arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree murder. Although this was only one person who was charged with the killing of an innocent black man, this had sparked hope for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement. 13 If there was no recording of the incident, no bystanders to speak out on the issue, and more importantly no social media to portray the horrible outcome of the altercation between George Floyd and the arresting officers, then Derek Chauvin would still be patrolling the streets. With the great power of social media, and the Black Lives Matter movement there could be a change in the equality of African Americans in the United States. Although the fight for equality is far from won, the Black Lives Matter movement triumphed over this battle. The voices of millions were heard. The next battle over defunding of the police force in favor of less violent and more community oriented programs will be very tough. With the hope that the Black Lives Matter movement can conquer anything in their path, they have already started opening up debates within different city council meetings about whether it is just to have millions and millions being poured into the Police Department when K-12 teachers barely earn living wages yet have a greater impact on the youths and their future. In different states and cities, BLM movement citizens speak at city council meetings, fighting for those changes. 14 While different representatives have also brought up the issue, it is ever-growing, and change is inevitable.
- Law Journal Editorial Board, “George Floyd, and What To Do Next”, New Jersey Law Journal, June 19, 2020. ↵
- Clark Merrifield, “America Uprising: Scholars Reflect on the Death of George Floyd”, Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center, June 3, 2020. ↵
- Bernard P. Dreyer, “The Death of George Floyd: Bending the Arc of History Toward Justice for Generations of Children”, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2020. ↵
- Press, Associated. “March Aimed at Redirecting Police Funds to Other Programs.” News. U.S. News, June 11, 2020,https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/arizona/articles/2020-06-11/march-aimed-at-redirecting-police-funds-to-other-programs. ↵
- DeGue, Sarah, Katherine A. Fowler, and Cynthia Calkins. “Deaths Due to Use of Lethal Force by Law Enforcement.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 51, no. 5 Suppl 3 (November 2016): S173–87. ↵
- Johanna Solomon, “Competitive Victimhood as a lens to reconciliation: An Analysis of the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter Movement”, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, July 1, 2019. ↵
- Samantha M. Adams, “Framing Effects in a Competitive Environment: Black Lives Matter versus Trump”, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, May 2018. https://scholar.utc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1157&context=honors-theses. ↵
- “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” October 6, 2015. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/. ↵
- Bill of Rights Institute. “Bill of Rights.” Accessed November 5, 2020. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. ↵
- Rhea W. Boyd, “On Racism: A New Standard for Publishing on Racial Health Inequities”, Health Affairs, July 2, 2020. ↵
- Erin Cassese, “Black Lives Matter: Articles on Protest, Policing, and Punishment”, Social Science Quarterly, June 15, 2020. ↵
- Gilliann Bolsover, “Black Lives Matter Discourse on Social Media During COVID: Polarised Positions Enacted in a New Event”, Computers and Society, September 8, 2020. ↵
- Kim Barker, “Bail is at least $1 Million for Ex Officer Accused of Killing George Floyd”, The New York Times, July 22, 2020. ↵
- Mike Gonzalez, “The Agenda of BLM is Different From The Slogan” The Heritage Foundation, July 3, 2020. ↵