Protests have been continuous for over 40 days
by Collin Billings
Unless you’ve been isolating yourself in an underground bunker for the past year (I wouldn’t blame you if you have), you’ve almost certainly heard about the Black Lives Matter protests. In every county, district, and city across the United States, people of all creeds have come together to protest police violence and advocate reform for the criminal justice system. The protests were instigated by the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but in a larger sense, they were a response to a legacy of systemic racism in the American Justice system.
On March 13, three Louisville police officers dressed in plain clothes executed a no-knock warrant on Breonna Taylor’s apartment. While exchanging gunfire with her boyfriend, the officers shot her 8 times. The relevant case that the officers were investigating did not directly involve Breonna Taylor or her boyfriend. In a similarly horrific incident, on May 25, officer Derek Chauvin attempted to arrest George Floyd on suspicion of possessing counterfeit bills. The officer handcuffed him and proceeded to kneel on his neck for several minutes while three other Minneapolis police officers prevented onlookers from intervening. At the time, all officers, in both instances, received minimal punishment for their actions. The protests that occurred after these incidents primarily focused on these killings, but American police (and police around the world) have a long history of racially motivated killings. The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were simply the straws that broke the camel’s back, a culmination of a decades long struggle involving racial bias in the criminal justice system.
In the beginning, the protests primarily aimed to prosecute the officers responsible for the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, however, the focus quickly turned to larger scale criminal justice reform. This largely involved defunding the police and instead funneling the money to social programs. The government responded by doing effectively nothing. By and large, the Republican party staunchly opposed the protests while the Democratic party seemingly supported the protests while only offering symbolic victories. However, to the Democrat’s credit, they recently passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 in the House of Representatives which requires increased accountability for law enforcement and prohibits discriminatory policing practices. However, the protests continue as the officers responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor have not been charged.
The protests in late May and early June were most noteworthy as they contained the most instances of looting and violence. Particularly, in Minneapolis, as well as many other places, videos surfaced of individuals looting and destroying local businesses. This type of behavior received criticism from both the mainstream media as well as from individuals within the BLM organization itself. However, many argue that peaceful protests have produced no results, which leaves only one avenue for change. In addition to videos of protester violence, new videos of police violence emerged during the protests showcasing law enforcement brutally suppressing protesters. Several reporters and protesters were blinded by rubber bullets and countless individuals were doused with tear gas. One of the most notorious videos showed a 75 year-old man being pushed down by Buffalo police, resulting in his head bleeding and cracking open. It seems as though the government has decided to counter protests against police violence with even more police violence.
Although the general momentum of the protests has diminished over the past few months, many protests are still taking place as we speak; particularly in Louisville where Breonna Taylor was killed. The social and political impact of these protests can not be overstated. It’s clear from their widespread support that Americans yearn for change and hope to construct a future in which everyone is treated equally.