Black Lives Matter movement makes nationwide waves

Cause, effects of anti-police brutality protests in California, across America

I attended a few of the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 — a couple of ones outside of the Promenade, one of which I helped to organize, and the one in Los Angeles on June 7. The Los Angeles protest was huge, if nothing else. My father and I had to walk half a mile from where we parked in a grocery store parking lot to get to it, since all parking within a half mile radius was entirely taken up. 

It was swelteringly hot and incredibly crowded; the masses of people moved slowly and close to one another, completely inundating the streets along which we walked. Some held signs and many more chanted, led in cries of “say their names” and “no justice, no peace” by people with megaphones.

What I noticed most of all, though, was the consideration the protestors had for one another. We were all there with a common goal in mind, and in protesting took great heed of each other. Many cars parked along the sides and in the middle of the streets handed out free food and water, some armed with bottles of hand sanitizer. Almost everyone wore masks and did not take them off unless they slipped down another street to depart from the crowd.

The Inception 

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was killed by police officers during an arrest after buying a pack of cigarettes with an allegedly fake $20 bill. The ensuing weeks saw an eruption of Black Lives Matter protests across the country, reaching peaks of as many as half a million people in a single day. 

On the evening of Monday, May 25, George Floyd entered Cup Foods, a grocery store, and purchased a pack of cigarettes. The employee working at the time felt that the money he was given may have been counterfeit, and called the police. 

Former officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao arrived at the scene to apprehend Floyd, who had reportedly appeared “drunk” and “not in control of himself,” according to the transcript of an interview with the employee at Cup Foods.

After he was handcuffed, Floyd stiffened, fell to the ground and began to claim he was “feeling claustrophobic,” according to the BBC. There was a struggle between Floyd and officers as they attempted to put him in the police car, which ended with Floyd on the ground, restrained by three officers as Chauvin knelt on his neck.

For eight minutes and 46 seconds, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck as the other man began to plead with him, claiming that he could not breathe. He called for his mother and children, saying he loved them. At six minutes, he was no longer responsive. Officers checked for a pulse but could not find one; an hour later, Floyd was pronounced dead. 

The Protests

The protests began on the following day, after the video of Floyd’s death spread across social media platforms. Hundreds of protestors flooded the streets of Minneapolis to protest police brutality, particularly the disproportionate amounts of brutality against black people and people of color. 

Though the majority of protesters were peaceful, conflicts began to arise as a result of the protests, particularly in areas such as the inception city of Minneapolis. As tensions began to grow between police and protestors, the protests later grew strained on both sides. Police hurled canisters of tear gas into crowds — many scrambled away from the gas, while other protesters even threw canisters back to where they came from. Protestors deemed too rowdy would, on occasion, be directly shot by rubber bullets.

In the following days, protests spread across the country, some large and some small. Los Angeles saw protests every day as the wave of anger at police brutality rolled across the nation. Early crowd sizes estimated by the LAPD averaged at about 20,000 people, while later ones, such as the protest on Sunday, June 7, was estimated at about 100,000 protesters

On the smaller level, there were also a number of protests in the Westlake and Thousand Oaks areas. It was commonplace to see protestors at the intersection of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Boulevard, outside of the Promenade. 

Senior Charlotte Robertson attended multiple protests outside of the Promenade, which were often organized and attended by teenagers from the surrounding areas. Robertson believes that it is a moral obligation for people to stand up for one another, “including BIPOC, people of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, those with mental illness, etc.”

“The Black Lives Matter movement, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, should not be a political debate. These are human rights,” Robertson wrote to the Talon. “The Black Lives Matter movement strives for equality.”

Some protests across the country grew violent when provoked by so-called “rioters”—those who would escalate the situations and sometimes intentionally provoke police, and were not truly affiliated with the protests, but rather capitalized on the protests as a means to commit crimes, according to the New York Daily News. In some cases, these “rioters” would end the nights with broken-into shops and buildings aflame. 

In these cases, there were those who attempted “smash and grabs,” which are the forceful breaking and enterings of a store to steal items before making a fast getaway. In other cases, however, the looters would be methodical in their work, relying on meticulous planning and well-timed strikes. 

The Impact

In the weeks during and after the surge of outrage, the country saw a variety of effects on police in its cities. Chauvin has been charged with unintentional second-degree murder, while the other three police officers in Minneapolis have been charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder, along with aiding and abetting manslaughter. Thou, Kueng and Lane have all posted $750,000 bonds, according to Los Angeles Magazine

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he would redirect $250 million to healthcare, jobs and “healing programs” for the communities of color from the LAPD budget, according to Women’s Health

In New York, City, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged on June 7 to move funding from the NYPD budget to youth and social services. $500,000 that was originally laid out for the NYPD will now be redirected to youth centers and the expansion of high-speed internet to residents of public housing. 

Denver and Dallas have both banned the use of chokeholds — and, in Dallas’s case, any use of force intended to restrict a person’s airway. Denver now requires officers to alert a supervisor whenever they point a gun at an individual, and Dallas has also introduced policies to “warn before shootings” and to force other officers to intervene when unnecessary force is used, coupled with new body cam regulations, according to Women’s Health

The Minneapolis City Council, in the wake of Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, has taken reparations a step further, opting to take steps to dismantle its police force entirely, according to MinnPost. In December of 2020, it voted to shift $8 million from the police department to services such as mental health crisis response teams and violence prevention.

It is currently unclear what this would exactly look like, though council members have stated that they are willing to commit to a year of engagement to decide upon the most effective and dependable public safety department.

Junior Ava Azarpay believes that the protests worked to push people “a step further in the right direction,” and feels that the protests opened up room for discussion and education, as well as an amplification of Black voices in America regarding their lives and experiences. 

“Following the protests in June, George Floyd’s killers were arrested, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were arrested, Breonna’s Law was established, a lot of modifications on policies regarding de-escalation and the usage of chokeholds went through, and most importantly, it opened all [of] our eyes to the raw truth and showed us the steps we as Americans need to take to better our country,” Azarpay wrote to the Talon.

Senior Hailey Jones attended a couple local peaceful protests. She described them both as “peaceful,” explaining that it felt nice to be in a predominantly white neighborhood and fighting for people who look “like [her].”

“It’s about getting justice for countless lives taken by police officers, Black people being put in jail for things [that] white people easily get away with and for being considerate of Black lives in general through every hardship they go through,” Jones wrote to the Talon. 

Jones feels that while having a Black/Indian vice president is a big step, a number of people haven’t  gotten the justice they deserve. However, she believes that it is good that people are beginning to be more aware of the issue, as Black people have been experiencing injustice for a very long time. 

“ [My] parents have prepared [me] since I was a child for how to confront a police officer, because it really could save my life. So, this was no new news to Black people. It’s just that more people are getting involved,” Jones wrote. “I believe if more nonblack people stay involved in the movement, more change will happen.”