We are on the verge of a revolution. In response to the killing of George Floyd by police, amongst many other incidents of police brutality against Black people like the killings of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, protests have been staged across the country and by extension the entire world, to fight the systemic racism America was built on. These largely peaceful protests have been constantly met with police violence time after time.
As a decisive counterpoint to those verbally lashing out against peaceful protesters, below is a non-exhaustive compilation of some of the worldwide accomplishments directly brought on by under two weeks of protesting. They are small, baby steps towards the many larger goals of Black Lives Matter (like defunding the police, holding cops more accountable and providing more protection and support to Black communities, amongst others), but nonetheless important starts on the road to change.
In the States
Regarding the killing of George Floyd (whose memorial was held in Houston on Tuesday), Derek Chauvin, the officer arrested on May 29 for Floyd’s murder (by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds), was officially charged with both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, facing up to 40 years in prison. This is an upgrade to the officer’s original sentence of third-degree murder and third degree-manslaughter, which carry a maximum of 25 years behind bars. The fact that it essentially took the outcry of the entire nation to instate the proper charges serves to underline protester’s calls for both police regulation and defunding. Floyd’s brother, Philonise testified today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, and pleaded for police reform and accountability.
In that respect, many states and cities have rapidly been implementing bans on choke holds, tear gas on protestors and other violent measures. Minneapolis, the city in which George Floyd was murdered, officially voted Friday to ban choke holds and other neck restraints. Other states/cities that followed suit include California, San Diego, Albany, and New York City. though hopefully many will soon follow. The Minneapolis City Council has also pledged to completely dismantle the police in the city, and transition to a “transformative new model of public safety.”
Police use of tear gas meanwhile has been outright banned in Seattle, WA by Mayor Jenny Durkan, as well as temporarily in Denver, CO. Meanwhile, proposed legislation by councils in Pittsburg, New Orleans and Washington D.C. to ban tear gas and other non-lethal police weapons is underway. In DC as well, military forces have finally started to withdraw as of Monday. Other states have announced plans to limit police by updating their current rules and standards. These include New Jersey’s plan to change its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in 20 years, as well as Dallas’ adoption of a “duty to intervene” policy requiring other officers to step in to stop illegal police behavior. Maryland has in turn formed a bipartisan work group of lawmakers specifically to work on police reform. Alderman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez of Chicago has proposed to halt the $100 million production of a new police academy and take police officers out of public schools. Additionally, school districts have actively diverted funds from the police towards education in both Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon.
Many actions have been taken in New York City as well. In the wake of ongoing protests, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to change the city’s July budget by massively rerouting police funds to social services. He was reluctant to give specific numbers, but his April budget proposal suggested a $23.8 million cut (only about 0.39% of the police force’s current total budget), which hopefully means his new July budget will raise that cut dramatically. De Blasio also announced Wednesday extra funding for the Cure Violence initiative, which hopes to prevent violence in NYC by installing outreach workers in 20 locations across the city, including the Bronx, Jamaica, Queens and Crown Heights. De Blasio plans to utilize $10 million in new city funds to hire workers and expand to said locations, though he did not reveal the exact budget of the initiative. De Blasio also plans to follow the lead of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and have “Black Lives Matter” painted on major streets throughout all five NYC boroughs. Gov. Andrew Cuomo meanwhile on Tuesday repealed Section 50-A, which previously allowed complaints against police officers and departments to be kept secret. Now, that information will be publicly available for the first time in decades.
The Legislature just voted to repeal 50-A and I will sign it into law this week.
The countless voices for reform united and were heard.
NOW is the moment for real change.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 10, 2020
Additionally, after over 60 people signed an open letter to FMCB general manager, the Massachusetts MBTA system will no longer transport police officers to and from protests. LA City Council has motioned to reduce the LAPD’s operating budget, which currently sits at about $1.8 billion, by up to $150 million. Not only that, they also plan to reallocate that sum, along with an additional $100 million, to “communities of color” in LA. While these number seem very high, its important to note that comparatively they are very small steps (but steps nonetheless).
More symbolically, Washington D.C. Mayor Bowser also took measures to officially rename the section of 16th Street that stands in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” Across the world, longstanding memorials to confederate/racist soldiers and political figures are being dismantled by both official state means and protesters. These include statues in Louisville (John Castleman) and Richmond (Willam Carter Wickham, Christopher Columbus), Bristol, UK (slave trader Edward Colston), with many more to come.
The last ten days have also led to a massive rise in filming of police brutality, which has in turn led to suspensions and firings of officers around the country. This direct evidence can sometimes be vital in charging cops with crimes related to brutality, and more and more Americans have taken up the task of documenting the injustice. To combat the common practice of police officers confiscating or destroying the phones of people they arrest and those of witnesses, the ACLU has urged the public to utilize their “Mobile Justice” app, first launched in 2015. Users can film instances of police brutality and other injustices directly within the app, which automatically are sent to ACLU servers for distribution, thus preserving the evidence and spreading awareness.
As for corporations and organizations, wile many have made official statements about their support for Black Lives Matter, the majority have not struck a chord with the public and have received claims of virtue signaling and hypocrisy. L’Oréal Paris’ statement was quickly followed up with a statement from model Munroe Bergdorf, who sharply called out the brand for dropping her following her calling out of the racism and white supremacy that charged the neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned Monday evening after a photo of him in brownface surfaced. It was also revealed by assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly that only white staff members who appeared in the magazine’s YouTube videos were compensated (El-Wally also listed several other actions taken by the company that led to a very racist and toxic environment). The NFL’s first statement on the subject was called out by thousands for being hollow and token, considering their treatment of former QB Colin Kaepernick just four years earlier when he kneeled during the national anthem in protest. Only on their second attempt at a statement did they even mention “Black Lives Matter.” CrossFit’s CEO stepped down after disparaging comments about George Floyd (and it seems his replacement is no better suited to confront racism within the company). But several companies are doing good. Longtime show Cops was cancelled by Paramount Network on Tuesday, beauty brands like Savage X Fenty and Anastasia Beverly Hills have donated upwards of $1 million each to Black Lives Matter funds, and even Merriam-Webster has revised their entry for “racism” in its dictionary. The most impactful corporate statements came from surprising places, like Nickelodeon, Bratz and Ben & Jerry’s, who all included actual resources and calls to action, not just empty generic words. Some of these companies will majorly hurt for the foreseeable future (if not completely dismantle due to racist internal culture), but the important thing is that the ones who authentically care and act will survive.
Public outcry regarding police brutality and racism in America and other countries has rang the world over, from New Zealand to Brazil to the Middle East. Europe has rallied particularly loudly however, with memorials and protests all over the continent.
Hugely attended protests and rallies have been ongoing in major European cities. France protested not only for Floyd, but also for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who was killed in the same manner by police in 2016. Following major gatherings in several places around the city, Berlin passed Germany’s first anti-discrimination law specific to one of its states. Peaceful demonstrations around the US embassy have also occurred in Dublin and Belfast, Ireland, Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, Athens, Greece, Brussels, Belgium, Copenhagen, Denmark and various cities in Italy. Roughly ten thousand protesters gathered in Dam Square in Amsterdam on June 1, all brandishing signs and chanting in support of Black Lives Matter. As many as 100,000 protesters marched through the streets of London over the course of four days, while Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Glasgow and Wolverhampton saw large scale protests of their own. Outside of Europe, two thousand marched on the US embassy in Aukland, New Zealand demanding reform, while Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from her balcony during a police investigation, was mourned during protests throughout Canada. Even in South Korea, k-pop superstars BTS have raised upwards of $1 million for Black Lives Matter groups (and subsequently matched those donations with another million).
Worldwide, memorials, murals, graffiti, and other protest art has cropped up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pictures of George Floyd have been immortalized across the globe with candles, signs and flowers, in cities like Mexico City and Warsaw outside the US embassy and consulate, respectively. Even in the Middle East and on the Berlin Wall, muralists have created homages to Floyd and other victims of American police brutality. The Smithsonian Museum has even announced plans to preserve George Floyd memorial-related artwork on the White House fence. Additionally, across the world, thousands of scientists dedicated Wednesday to halting research activity and participating in a mass protest called the “Strike for Black Lives.”
It’s important to take note of all the less tangible ways the last fortnight of action has taken form. Civilians have been making active efforts to spread helpful resources and donations funds to the public through the responsible use of social media (despite the many tone deaf attempts by numerous celebrities to raise awareness; Ellen DeGeneres and Lea Michelle spring to mind). Many white people, in the face of bigoted naysayers (many of which currently run our government), have acknowledged their privilege that makes the simple act of living in America fear-free a luxury for them. There has been self-reflection, public and private conversation amongst those who would not normally address these matters, and calling out of family members who express racist sentiments. But most importantly, people are taking definable action to not only raise awareness, but actually enact change, by donating to Black Lives Matter and its affiliated bail funds, signing petitions to counter systemic racism, and making an effort to call out and correct those who speak out in favor of the All Lives Matter movement.
To reiterate, we are far from the endgame here. As stated on the Black Lives Matter “Ways You Can Help” page, “This Doesn’t Go Away Once The Topic Isn’t, ‘Trending.’” When protests and police brutality are no longer the hot media issue, there will still be racists with depressingly loud voices across the country, and there will still be unjust police action against Black people. We as Americans will need to continue to support every single Black organization, petition, business, justice group, and protester’s bail fund we have trumpeted in the last few weeks. The beginning moves have started, it’s time to follow through.