2020 has come with a slew of monumental global events that has brought chaos and uncertainty to many parts of the world. A once-in-a-generation pandemic has swept the world, costing millions of lives and binging on an economic recession. Police brutality has reappeared in the spotlight of the news and the Black Lives Matter movement is getting some long awaited international attention. Some nations, led by strong leaders, have been able to improve the way of life and protect many citizens, while other nations struggle to adapt and satisfy the demands of their citizens.
In these past few weeks, the news has overflowed with updates on global protests advocating for equal rights and fighting against police brutality and racism. This has been an ongoing issue in America since the nation’s founding. Many lives have been unjustly lost and the people responsible oftentimes are not punished or do not take accountability for their crimes.
The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. These three strong women are the forefront of one of the world’s largest civil rights movements. Current protests have been sparked from the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. Three average citizens who were black. Three victims under the hand of an unjust law enforcement agency. Three stories that have touched and ignited the hearts of millions across the nation and the world.
Millions of peaceful protesters have hit the streets armed with masks and signs, risking their health and safety for a cause they believe in. But sadly more than a few protests have resulted in violence and riots. This only further antagonizes the relationship between authority and citizens. Violence erupting at protests undermines the whole effort. Peace can not be achieved through violence, and if it is, it is only very temporary. While some may lose sight of the purpose of these demonstrations and get lost in anger and frustration, it is important to keep a level head and understand the “who,” “what,” and “why” of this issue. People were killed because of their race and their image. Now, many of their deaths have been preserved through videos and testimonials and they are changing the world. But there are countless others who have left with a mere whisper. It is important to remember the stories of these people so their deaths are not in vain.
George Floyd was a 46 year old father of a son and two daughters. In highschool he played football and basketball. He was charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon 13 years ago and served his time. After he got out, he became involved in his local parish and worked as a truck driver and bouncer. On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested for a counterfeit $20 bill. In the arrest, Derek Chauvin, the police officer, pinned Floyd to the ground, kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd could be heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”
Breonna Taylor was a 26 year old black woman. She was an EMT working on the front lines of the ongoing global pandemic and had jobs at two hospitals. She was living in an apartment with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. The Louisville Metro PD had a warrant for Taylor and Walker’s apartment, investigating two suspected drug dealers. The cops involved claim to have been unaware that those men were already apprehended. Around midnight on March 13, 2020, the LMPD used a battering ram to get into the apartment, Walker shot first in self defense and the police returned with more than 20 rounds, 8 of which hit Breonna Taylor, killing her at the scene.
Ahmaud Arbery was a 25 year old black male. He played football in highschool and went to college to become an electrician. He was also an aspiring boxer on the side. He was out for his daily jog on February 23, 2020 when a former cop, Gregory McMichael, and his adult son, Travis McMichael chased Arbery because they had an instinctive feeling that he was a culprit in a string of recent robberies. William Bryan Jr. followed in his truck videotaping the altercation and running over Arbery before he was shot three times. Travis McMichael then reportedly said racial slurs directed at Arbery’s dead body.
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr. was unarmed and shot six times by Darren WIllson, a cop of five years. Brown was only 18 and had graduated from Normandy High School just eight days before his death and had two days until he was going to start a training program at a local college. He was also an amature rapper on Soundcloud known as “Big Mike”. After reviewing the evidence on this case, the jury decided Willson was acting in self defense and was not indicted.
Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old highschool student living in Florida. On February 26, 2012, he visited his father’s fiancée and her son who lived in a gated community. It was a place Martin had visited numerous times before. However, that day, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator, shot Martin – who was unarmed – during an altercation. Zimmerman, who was 28 at the time, working toward an associate degree in criminal justice, was later acquitted under the terms of self defense.
Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. Rice attended a local elementary school and was a talented football and basketball player. He was frequently involved in arts programs in the community and enjoyed helping his mom with embroidery. On November 22, 2014, Rice was shot dead by Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old police officer who saw Rice’s replica toy Airsoft gun and mistakenly saw it as a threat. Loehmann was later investigated and deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for the job.
These individuals and countless more have lost their lives to the brutal racism that permeates virtually every government organization and large corporations. While it’s impossible to save those who have already been lost, there is still hope for the future. Laws can be changed, opinions shifted, and officials voted out. We can make a better America for our children.
Let the legacy of those who have suffered and those who we have lost live on, and let their sacrifice not be in vain. Never forget the horrors of the past. Remember so that the nation never takes a step backwards and can honor those who have been mistreated. Fight everyday for the world you want to see. Bansky said, “you die twice, one time when you stop breathing and a second time, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Let George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and everyone who has been unjustly killed live forever. They are truly changing the world.
Graphic: Luca Richman