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Black Lives Matter: The Perfect Storm for Rebellion

“Black lives matter” protests are ongoing protests against racism and police brutality started on May 26th, 2020 in the United States in Minneapolis. The anti-racist protests were followed by the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes during the arrest in the previous day.

The video of the incident went viral on social media highlighting the pledging moments of handcuffed George Floyd saying “Please, please, I cannot breathe”. The brutal act of the police officer triggered widespread protests at least in 140 US cities, with thousands of people taking to the streets against police brutality and asking for police reforms. Unlike the protests in the past, the “Black lives matter” protests were able to bring several changes.

There were also rallies in the past years against the killing of Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Micheal Brown and Eric Garner by the police. A Few months ago, 26- year-old Breonna Taylor was killed by the police on a raid on her home while she was asleep. Tamir Rice a 12-year-old African American boy was killed in Cleveland, Ohio by a 26- year-old police officer for carrying a toy replica of Airsoft gun.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old black man, was brutally shot by 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The incident ignited both peaceful and violent protests in Ferguson using the slogan “Hands up, don’t shoot” 

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in the New York City borough of Staten Island after Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer, put him in a chokehold while arresting him. Video footage of the incident generated widespread national attention and raised questions about the appropriate use of force by law enforcement.

Unlike the previous protests, the Black lives matter protests seems different, with a larger number of white protestors and protesters from other ethnicities standing with black activists against Floyd’s killing and demanding the four officers involved be held accountable. The Democratic lawmakers were asking for an investigation of force used against protesters.

Eventually, protests began to form in other cities across the United States, including Memphis, Tennessee, Los Angeles, California, and Louisville, Kentucky. The unrest escalated on subsequent days and the third precinct police station in Minneapolis was burned down. 

While the country was burning, president trump called himself the president of “law and order” and threatened to send American military to the streets to quell the protests. Protesters were outraged as Trump referred them as “thugs” in a tweet. The following day tweeter hid one of the tweets of president trump as it violated the policies by glorifying violence.

Multiple fires broke out near the White House late on Sunday 31st evening, as angry protesters gathered in Washington DC for the third night in a row. While protests have remained largely peaceful, looting, vandalism and fires have taken place. The police have also used tear gas and other non-lethal projectiles on protesters, including on peaceful gatherings and members of the press.

As hundreds of protestors gathered outside Trump’s residence, the Secret Service rushed Trump and his family to a White House bunker. In order to control the unrest, at least 200 cities imposed curfews and at least 27 states at Washington, D.C activated over 74,000 National Guard personnel.

As the protests became widespread, the police officers accountable for the incident was charged. Ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, the officer who is seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was charged with second-degree murder, which comes with a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Chauvin was also charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which come with maximum sentences of 25 years and 10 years respectively. It is unclear whether, if convicted of those additional charges, Chauvin’s sentences would be served concurrently or consecutively. That would be at the discretion of the judge.

The other three officers involved in Floyd’s death, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Meanwhile, the online records say Thomas Lane, 37, posted bail of $750,000 and was released from the Hennepin County Jail, with conditions, shortly after 4 p.m. on June 8th. Records show the other officers are remaining in custody.

Amidst the COVID-19 concerns and the warning of public health officials, hundreds of people gathered for the first of several planned memorial of George Floyd. “George Floyd’s story has been the story of Black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck, It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’ said Reverend Al Sharpton, who eulogized Floyd.

Mass protests continued for a second weekend across the US. Tens of thousands rallied in Washington, DC, New York City, and elsewhere. Protesters targeted the Confederate statues and symbols across the US south, with some being toppled by demonstrators and others being removed by cities or defenders of the monuments thus, toppling down the institutional racism.

However, the perfect rebellion of Black lives Matter was able to bring about major changes in the United States and around the globe. The Houston police chief says that the police technics of chokehold should be banned as more often they result in death. Minneapolis, Washington DC and more cities have banned the use of chokeholds.

Regarding the death of Breonna Taylor, Louisville mayor has suspended use of no-knock warrants and Louisville metro council are working on legislation that would limit the use of no-knock warrants. Further, cities place temporary bans on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protestors. 

George Floyd’s Brother Philonise Floyd, testified at the Judiciary Committee, stating “I’m tired. I’m tired of the pain I’m feeling now and I’m tired of the pain I feel every time another Black person is killed for no reason,” he further emphasized “Teach them what necessary force is,” he says. “Teach them that necessary force should be used rarely, and only when life is at risk.”

Following the request of the protesters to defund and disband the Minneapolis police department, The Minneapolis City Council began the process of ending the city’s Police Department as it currently exists.

The council voted Friday to amend the meeting’s agenda by adding two items, one begins efforts toward getting a charter amendment referendum on the November ballot. The proposal would eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department as a charter department and create a new public safety organization. The other adds a resolution to create the process allowing city staff to take steps toward developing what they call a “transformative new model” for public safety and that process is expected to take a year.

Amidst the ongoing protests, an emotional video went viral in social media where the people of Houston, Texas gathered and kneeled before their black neighbours, apologizing and praying for Floyd’s death. “Father God we asked for forgiveness from our black brothers and sisters for years and years of racism,” a man says in the video clip. In another clip, Portland police are seen kneeling to show support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters, emphasizing the world that for the action of a few, the whole community cannot be blamed. 

Despite the rebellion, the funeral service for Floyd began in Houston, Texas on June 9th, with family members and invited dignitaries filing into The Fountain of Praise church to pay their respects. It is hoped that his story will become a turning point in the fight against racism and that is not just in the United States.

By Jumana Jabeer

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