Around the world, protests against racist police brutality have arisen. The protests aren’t just for American cases; they’re also highlighting cases in other countries, with demands for new investigations or renewed attention for people of color who were killed or mistreated due to systemic racism.
In small towns and big cities from coast to coast, Americans took to the streets giving voice to the grief and anger that generations of black Americans have suffered at the hands of the criminal justice system.
Thousands upon thousands of people of different races, ages, religions, sexual orientations, young and old, black and white, family and friends have joined together to say: Enough.
If you’re unfamiliar with the statistics:
- Black Americans are two and one-half times as likely as white counterparts to die at the hands of the police.
- From 2013-2019, 99 percent of killings by police did not result in officers being charged with a crime.
After nearly two weeks of unrest in the U.S. characterized by police violence and misconduct against protesters, several cities have scaled back law enforcement. Daily demonstrations, now in their second weekend, were largely peaceful.
Philadelphia saw one of the largest groups of city demonstrators since protests began. Among those who rallied on Saturday were members of the 76ers basketball team and a couple who married during it.
In New York, nearly a thousand people streamed into Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, and several thousand gathered near Central Park in Manhattan. Some danced and others played music, and chants of “Whose streets? Our streets!” rang out even as a downpour soaked the crowds.
In Seattle, a demonstration organized by health care workers drew thousands wearing scrubs and lab coats and carrying signs that read, “Black Health Matters” and “Racism Is a Public Health Emergency.”
In D.C., the fence outside the White House was converted into a crowd-sourced memorial wall to black men and women who lost their lives at the hands of the police. Hundreds walked the wall, viewing, adding names, paintings and posters, making this an open air museum and tribute.
Nonviolent movements lead to meaningful change
History shows us that peaceful stances against unequal civil rights are successful. Here are a few peaceful protests that led to a positive social, and political difference:
The Salt March. Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi led a peaceful protest against Britain’s imposed law dictating no Indian could collect or sell salt in the country. Seventeen years later, India gained independence from Britain.
The Suffrage Parade; “To ask for freedom is not a crime,” still holds true today. The 1913 Suffrage Parade shared the voices of over 5,000 courageous women speaking out for the right to equal political participation.
Montgomery Bus Boycott; Rosa Parks’ defiant but peaceful act symbolized greater civil rights: all people deserve equal seats. In 1956, a year later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.Emmeline Pankhurst
We’re seeing the first ripples of change
Politics and police procedures
There were incremental victories last week in the Floyd case, with charges against three additional police officers who were present at his death, and charges against the officer who knelt on his neck elevated to second-degree murder.
U.S. police departments are re-examining their use-of-force policies and Congress is planning expansive legislation to address police brutality and racial bias. And a social media campaign #8cantwait was initiated to spur immediate change based on research that more restrictive use of force policies can reduce killings by police and save lives.
Changes we’re seeing include:
- Seattle’s police chief banned the use of tear gas on protesters for at least 30 days and called for a review of the department’s crowd control tactics.
- A federal judge in Denver issued a temporary restraining order on Friday to limit officers’ ability to fire rubber bullets or use tear gas on protesters.
- The Minneapolis city council voted on Friday to ban officers from using chokeholds and neck restraints, and to require officers to intervene and report any use of unauthorized force.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom of California called for the removal of neck restraints from the state’s police training programs.
These are the tip of the iceberg, with so much more yet to be done.
U.S. civil rights groups have received a surge of corporate donations, with more than $450 million in pledges to groups focused on social and racial justice.
Walmart and its foundation promised to put $100 million into a new racial equity center. Warner Music and Sony Music announced $100 million funds and Nike pledged $40 million to various organizations. Amazon, Facebook, Google and Spotify announced donations of $10 million or more, with Apple giving undisclosed amounts to groups including the Equal Justice Initiative. Goldman Sachs, Target, United Health and Verizon’s foundation each gave $10 million.
These donations come at an opportune time for nonprofits experiencing increased demand for services during the pandemic while fundraising is tanking. Some groups remain wary that companies are just in it for the good PR, but for now, these funds are a way to begin strengthening efforts for equal justice.
This week has been humbling. It has shown me, someone who considers herself to be progressive, that there is a great deal more for me to learn.
Underserved voices have been silenced for too long. I think the world is waking up and hearing with new ears. We’re all listening more and opening up to what we need to learn and better understand.
Highlight of the Week:
Health care workers cheer for protesters
At 7pm every night since March, New Yorkers have made a habit of cheering for health care workers, who risk their own well-being in the battle against the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, health care workers across the city raised their voices, put their hands together and knelt to show respect for peaceful protesters marching to bring attention to systemic racism and calling for justice. It was clear the appreciation was mutual, as protesters also cheered the health care workers while continuing their march.
Challenge: 30-Day Justice Plan
Take steps toward justice. To start, spend more than eight minutes and 46 seconds a day to be part of this change.
While it’s impossible to change all we need to change in a month, this personal 30-day challenge is a place to begin:
- Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by Peggy McIntosh.
- Sit in the discomfort and consider and confront your own privilege and how it makes your life “easier” than for many others.
- Sign petitions for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and others.
- Register to vote or confirm you are already registered.
- Watch Megan Ming Francis’ “Let’s Get to the Root of Racial Injustice” TEDx Talk.
- Support Black-owned businesses.
- Donate to an organization in your community or nationally fighting for change, including: The Movement for Black Lives, Equal Justice Initiative, and NAACP.
Executive Director, JustGive.org