This week, I knew I wanted to write an article about the recent events circulating the death of George Floyd, and countless other black lives lost due to excessive police force. Something that has stood out to me the most is, of course, the protesting. There's so much information circulating the internet and media, it can be hard to differentiate fact and fiction. Videos and pictures of looting, murders, excessive police force, semi-trucks plowing through crowds of people, and various other situations are being blasted on every social media platform imaginable. Some videos show police force joining in on the protests, hugging protesters, or people cleaning up trash leftover from looters. Regardless of what's being shown in the videos or photos, I can't help but ask, “What happened before or after this was taken? What didn't we hear, or see?"
Some people are confused entirely about why these protests are happening, or try to fight the Black Lives Matter movement by saying, "All lives matter", or deny white privilege.
I took it upon myself to reach out to people I know personally and people I've never met across the country or beyond, to get a better look at what's happening at these protests and what's driving each individual to go.
Hima, MN, U.S.
“I decided to protest because not only did it happen in my state and impact my communities, for me donating money and raising awareness wasn't enough, I have been to 3 protests in the cities and one local one that stopped our police from going into the cities up until curfew. Today I dropped off supplies. My experience with the protests is that there is so much more than what the media is showing. They say the community is rioting but they don't show the community cleaning it up, not only is it the community of Minneapolis cleaning up, but there are people from the entire metro coming in to help with everything, donating food supplies toiletries and all of that. And there's a certain feeling of family when you stand at those protests, something that the news will never be able to capture, we are peaceful and we are just protesting in solidarity and when you're there people are there to help. We have people bring water and snacks and masks and hand sanitizer and passing it out so that everyone is okay. There is so much community at those protests you will never know until you are there."
Georgia, MO, U.S.
"I am protesting because I've always been a person who wants equality for all. The "equality" some think we have is a facade. People of colour are still being murdered for no other reason than their skin. I'm protesting for the correct sentencing of the police officer who murdered George Floyd. He was convicted of third-degree murder, manslaughter, and what he did was no accident. Protesting has been a mix of so many emotions. It's a mix of pride, sadness, hope, and anger. We shouldn't have to fight against racism anymore. I've marched with the crowds in Springfield and the protesters are peaceful, but there are always people that come to attempt to hurt, degrade and demonize us. I was pepper-sprayed by a man after simply trying to protect a friend from getting sprayed. It hurt, but I'd do it over and over if it meant we could finally get justice for the hundreds of black people who have lost their lives to racism.
The media seems to think we all just want to burn buildings and hurt people. We're here to seek justice, mourn losses, and be around people who support the cause."
Leilany, NY, U.S.
"This was very personal to me. I've always been an advocate for equality and a supporter for the BLM movement, and when everything broke out with George Floyd. I was signing petitions and posting things to raise awareness but I wanted to do more. So some friends and I went out to some of the busiest roads in our town and held signs. I feel it's important because countless lives are being lost just because of the color of their skin, it isn't right. I'm only 45 mins outside NYC and I see the protests and my friends go. The protests are always peaceful until the police show up and them the media only reports the loots and rioting when the police are the first ones to engage in the violence."
Chanti, AMS, Netherlands
"I decided to protest because I feel like nobody is listening. Nobody will listen to a single voice unless they are forced to hear it. That is why I think it is important to protest because it is louder doing it together. For a long time, it had been leading to this moment, and I think the videos of Arbery and Floyd were the tipping point. Because it broke so many hearts.
To me personally, it's important because as a black woman, I have been experiencing racism for so long. Here in The Netherlands, especially as micro-aggression, but still institutionalized racism. I can handle injustice very badly because I feel the pain very deeply as I believe pain is passed on through generations.
It was beautiful to see how many people were there to protest because you can feel the love that everyone has for one another. We were angry because we were able to love so deeply for the rest of our people. That is what could be felt within the crowd. People were looking out for each other.
Even though the protest was supposed to be with max 300 people, there were 5000 people protesting. The major of the city decided not to involve the police because she said it wasn't necessary, even though we couldn't keep a proper distance. The media says she was 'afraid' that it would turn into a rally, but I don't believe that. This was such a peaceful crowd. I think the media wants to show her as if she was scared, but I think she just took a very powerful stand in what we were protesting."
Emily, MO, U.S.
"I think it's important to use my privilege as a white person in a positive way by fighting alongside the black community. It's not enough to just say you stand with them while they're being murdered by the state, my activism has to go beyond just social media. I have to take it to the streets and fight alongside them.
When I got to the protest I attended, it was 1 am. I found a decently large group of protesters still on the Plaza and joined them. They were facing off against a wall of police officers. After a while of the standoff, we took to the streets and followed a route along the Plaza, eventually circling back to where we began. The police followed us in their cars the entire time, blaring their sirens and ordering us to get out of the street. Every time they did, we went onto the sidewalk. Eventually, we'd make our way back into the street and the process repeated itself a couple of times. They were armed with canisters of mace and told us they wouldn't ask us again.
When we got back to where we started, they immediately ordered us to disperse even though we were peaceful and on the sidewalk at the time. They came towards us and maced us, macing me in my right eye and on my clothing. Just because we wouldn't leave, that's it.
The next day, the KCPD (Kansas City Police Department) shared a sign of a couple of officers holding a sign that said "End police brutality" which I thought was ironic because they maced me like, twelve hours prior. They claim to want the same thing, but they maced a crowd of peaceful protesters for "being a disturbance." It was ridiculous.
A couple of friends and I are planning on going back to the Plaza Thursday with backpacks full of first aid and water to hand out. People have been there every day since George Floyd was murdered so I plan on rejoining them on my next day off of work."
Erin, MO, U.S.
"The decision for me comes from seeing the news coverage of the rioting and looting. The protest I attended was entirely peaceful and I wouldn't have attended if I didn't think it was going to be. Everyone has the right to protest and I support that. This was the first protest I have ever attended. I decided to go today because I felt called to. Inaction is the same thing as support, and if we don't stand now when will we? What happened to George Floyd was wrong. I can't pretend to understand the feelings that African American's have. But I can stand with them. And we can hold my City officials accountable for their actions when injustice happens in our communities.
I think this is immensely important. We have been so divided for years and people are tired of it. I am hopeful for change. I am hopeful for peace. It starts here, one protest, one election, one conversation at a time.
I think media coverage depends on where you get it from. I honestly don't watch a lot of mainstream media, I see things on Facebook, I occasionally watch MSNBC, but nothing consistently. From what I have seen I would say it has been pretty fair coverage. There are horrible things happening, but there is so much peaceful protesting happening that it gets overshadowed."
Arianna, WI, U.S.
"The Black Lives Matter movement means everything to me because it's my community. It's my ethnicity. It's my history. It's my background. I wouldn't be the person I am today if I wasn't black. The media tries blaming the black community for all of these riots and looting and this and that. But we wouldn't have even had to do this in the first place if we had equality. That's all we want. And for them to say that we started all this is SO wrong. We are peaceful. We don't want violence. We want to be heard. While marching in the Oshkosh protest I saw a community come together and stand for one thing. However, I got spat on and flipped off. I won't let anyone ruin my beliefs and what I think is right and what I'm fighting for. I went to the protest because if I stand for what's right, maybe others will too."
Sean, MO, U.S.
"I think that its important to stand up for all Americans. The racism going on in this country will NEVER stop unless we all stand together. It's personal to me. I have African American family. I would burn this whole city if something happened to them. I just can't stand hateful people in general. We the people need to make all this hate cease."
Destiny, MO, U.S.
"I didn't know what was going to happen at the protest, and I still went because I believe we are all the same. We may have a lighter skin tone but that doesn't make us better in any way, shape, or form! I understand I will never understand the pain and heartbreak African Americans feel. The media is what gets everyone wild and not everything the media says is true. Black lives are being taken. The protests get violent because the police don't listen so we take it to a level that they do listen to. I'm not black but I'm willing to understand and I think everyone should understand as well.
One day I hope that people won't be defined by the color of their skin tone but be defined by how they respond to others and respect others. All lives matter but right now the black lives are being taken, and I will stand with them till everyone understands that skin is skin and a heart is a heart, and that we all have something in common."
Carlos, CA, U.S.
"I went to the protests because I believe that the best way to show I care is to show up. Give my time, my energy, my body to something I care about. I showed up because I truly believe that whiteness (white privilege) is a virus, and it's coming for all of us. So whether you're black or not, you need to show up. As a brown queer immigrant, I already live on the margins. I've been a target of whiteness. And yet I still hold many privileges. And so I want to use everything at my disposal to show my black and indigenous family that I'm with them in this fight.
The protest was like a big family party. It was like coming together with friends. You may have never met before, but you all share a common bond. And because so many of us are in pain, the protest felt like a big therapy session. I felt recharged, healed, listened to, powerful, and purposeful.
There was this sense of relief. Don't get me wrong. Whiteness is still alive and well despite these protests. I know the fight ahead will be long and painful. But that sense of community allowed me to see what's possible, even if it was just a few hours.
I think the media focuses a lot on anger. Sure, folks are angry. But folks are also in pain. They're hurting. This is trauma. And trauma isn't black and white. Trauma is complicated and nuanced. And trauma can also be healed, and I feel that the media doesn't understand how these protests are also a space for healing."
Hawa, AMS, Netherlands
"I decided to go to the protest because as a black woman it is my duty to stand up for what's right. I have had my own experiences of encountering racism unnecessarily. I am sick and tired of people treating us differently based on the coulour of our skin. At the protest it self I experienced nothing but positivity. It was a peaceful protest where people of all colours and ethnicity came and showed their respect.✊🏾 The media the past few days has been covering a lot! I believe there's more to find on social media than on the news regarding this topic. Social media isn't just highlighting George Floyds case but it's also highlighting other cases in different countries such as the Shukri Abdi case, Grenfell tower cases, and the Belly Mujinga case In the UK! In the Netherlands blackface is a big thing. The 'black Pete' aka 'zwarte piet' which is a Dutch yearly celebration is also being highlighted! As a black Muslim woman, I believe justice will be completely served in the hereafter!"
I encourage anyone who stumbles across this article to look at both sides of situations, dig deeper, think harder, and do your research. Do not post or form an opinion until you've educated yourself on the situation. It's important, now more than ever, to steer clear of media directed towards a certain group or view, and to be informed.
Below are a few things I hope you can take away from this.
1) Not all protesters are looters, and not all looters are protesters.
2) Responding to the Black Lives Matter movement by saying “All lives matter" is insensitive. Yes, all lives do matter that is something we can agree on. But the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement is to bring awareness to violence and systematic racism against black people, and the fact that some STILL believe black lives don't matter at all.
3) White privilege is very real, but can be used to fight racism for all POC. Amplify the voices of those talking about their oppression and experiences with racism, and continue to educate yourself on things you may have never experienced because you are white.
After asking people who witnessed it first hand, I've learned that everyone is driven to go to these protests because of different things. To some it may be because they've experienced racism their whole life, for others, they want to stand up for those who have, but they're all fighting towards the same goal - equality.