2020–2021 United States racial unrest
|2020–2021 United States racial unrest|
|Date||May 25, 2020 – present|
(1 year and 4 months)
|Caused by||Several deaths related to police activity, notably the killing of George Floyd while being arrested by the Minneapolis Police, police brutality, lack of police accountability, inequality and racism|
|Methods||Protests, demonstrations, riots, looting, civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike action|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Death(s)||At least 25|
|Injuries||400+ law enforcement officials and an unknown number of civilians|
|Arrested||Over 14,000 (as of June 27, 2020)|
The 2020–2021 United States racial unrest is an ongoing wave of civil unrest, comprising protests and riots, against systemic racism towards black people in the United States, notably in the form of police violence. It is partly facilitated by the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement, and was initially triggered by the killing of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020. Following the death of George Floyd, unrest broke out in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area on May 26, and quickly spread across the country and the world. Within Minneapolis, widespread property destruction and looting occurred, including a police station being overrun by demonstrators and set on fire, causing the Minnesota National Guard to be activated and deployed on May 28. After a week of unrest, over $500 million in property damage was reported in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area and two deaths had been linked to the riots.
Further unrest quickly spread throughout the United States, sometimes including rioting, looting, and arson. By early June, at least 200 American cities had imposed curfews, while more than 30 states and Washington, D.C, had activated over 62,000 National Guard personnel in response to unrest. By the end of June, at least 14,000 people had been arrested at protests. Polls have estimated that between 15 million and 26 million people had participated at some point in the demonstrations in the United States, making them the largest protests in United States history. It was also estimated that between May 26 and August 22, around 93% of protests were "peaceful and nondestructive". According to several studies and analysis, protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, with police and counter-protesters sometimes starting violence. According to a September 2020 estimate, arson, vandalism and looting caused about $1–2 billion in insured damage between May 26 and June 8, making this initial phase of the George Floyd protests the civil disorder event with the highest recorded damage in United States history.
There has also been a large concentration of unrest around Portland, Oregon, which has led to the Department of Homeland Security deploying federal agents in the city from June onward. The move was code named Operation Legend, after 4 year old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City. Federal forces have since also been deployed in other cities which have faced large amounts of unrest, including Kansas City and Seattle. More localized unrest reemerged in several cities following incidents involving police officers, notably following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, which led to protests and riots in the city. The protests have led to requests at the federal, state and municipal levels intended to combat police misconduct, systemic racism, qualified immunity and police brutality in the United States. A wave of monument removals and name changes has taken place throughout the world, especially in the United States. This itself has sparked conflict, between left-wing and right-wing groups, often violent. Several far-right groups, including civilian militias and white supremacists, have fought with members of "a broad coalition of leftist anti-racist groups" in street clashes.
The racial unrest precipitated a national American cultural reckoning on topics of racial injustice. Public opinion of racism and discrimination quickly shifted in the wake of the protests, with significantly increased support of the Black Lives Matter movement and acknowledgement of institutional racism, i.e. systemic advantages and disadvantages due to race. Demonstrators revived a public campaign for the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials as well as other historic symbols such as statues of venerated American slaveholders and modern display of the Confederate battle flag. Public backlash widened to other institutional symbols, including place names, namesakes, brands and cultural practices. Anti-racist self-education became a trend throughout June 2020 in the United States. Black anti-racist writers found new audiences and places on bestseller lists. American consumers also sought out black-owned businesses to support. The effects of American activism extended internationally, as global protests destroyed their own local symbols of racial injustice. Multiple media began to refer to it as a national reckoning on racial issues in early June. By the beginning of July, The Washington Post was running a regularly collecting new stories of the day related to "America's Racial Reckoning".
Background[edit source | edit]
Police brutality in the United States[edit source | edit]
- For further information, see Police brutality in the United States
Frequent cases of police misconduct and fatal use of force by law enforcement officers in the United States, particularly against African Americans, have long led the civil rights movement and other activists to protest against the lack of police accountability in incidents involving excessive force. Many protests during the civil rights movement were a response to police brutality, including the 1965 Watts riots which resulted in the deaths of 34 people, mostly African Americans. The largest post-civil rights movement protest in the 20th Century was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which were in response to the acquittal of police officers responsible for excessive force against Rodney King, an African American man.
In 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri resulted in local protests and unrest while the death of Eric Garner in New York City resulted in numerous national protests. After Eric Garner and George Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" during their arrests, the phrase became a protest slogan against police brutality. In 2015 the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody resulted in riots in the city and nationwide protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Several nationally publicized incidents occurred in Minnesota, including the 2015 killing of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis; the 2016 killing of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights; and the 2017 killing of Justine Damond. In 2016, Tony Timpa was killed by Dallas police officers in the same way as George Floyd. In March 2020, the killing of Breonna Taylor by police executing a no knock warrant at her Kentucky apartment was also widely publicized. However, it was later revealed the warrant was not a no knock warrant in released police documents and the reports were redacted.
According to The Washington Post database of every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer in the United States, as of August 31, 2020, 9 unarmed black people had been shot by police in 2020. As of that date the database lists four people of unknown race, 11 white people, 3 Hispanic people, and 1 person of "other" race who were shot while unarmed. Black people, who account for less than 13% of the American population, are killed by police at a disproportionate rate, being killed at more than twice the rate of white people.
According to a data set and analysis which was released by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) at the beginning of September, there were more than 10,600 demonstration events across the country between May 24 and August 22 which were associated with all causes: Black Lives Matter, counter-protests, COVID-19-pandemic-related protests, and others. After Floyd's killing, Black Lives Matter related protests sharply peaked in number at the end of May, declining to dozens per week by September, and are characterized as "an overwhelmingly peaceful movement" with more than 93% of protests involving no incidents of violence nor destructive activity. The protests that took place in 140 American cities this spring were mostly peaceful, but the arson, vandalism and looting that did occur will result in at least $1 billion to $2 billion of paid insurance claims. The unrest this year (from May 26 to June 8) will cost the insurance industry far more than any prior incidents of social unrest.
According to Amnesty International's October 2020 report Losing the Peace: U.S. Police Failures to Protect Protesters from Violence, law enforcement agencies across the United States failed to protect protesters from violent armed groups. The incidents documented by Amnesty International show over a dozen protests and counter-protests erupted in violence with police either mostly, or entirely, absent from the scene. Amnesty International USA, jointly with the Center for Civilians in Conflict, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and Human Rights First, sent a letter to governors of U.S. states condemning abuses by law enforcement agencies and calling on governors to ensure the constitutional right to assemble peacefully.
Killing of Breonna Taylor[edit source | edit]
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove on March 13, 2020. Three plainclothes LMPD officers entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, executing a search warrant. Gunfire was exchanged between Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker and the officers. Walker said that he believed that the officers were intruders. The LMPD officers fired over twenty shots. Taylor was shot eight times and LMPD Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly was injured by gunfire. Another police officer and an LMPD lieutenant were on the scene when the warrant was executed.
The primary targets of the LMPD investigation were Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker, who were suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house more than 10 miles away. According to a Taylor family attorney, Glover had dated Taylor two years before and continued to have a "passive friendship". The search warrant included Taylor's residence because it was suspected that Glover received packages containing drugs at Taylor's apartment and because a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of Glover's house.
Kenneth Walker, who was licensed to carry a firearm, fired first, injuring a law enforcement officer, whereupon police returned fire into the apartment with more than 20 rounds. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the police by the Taylor family's attorney alleges that the officers, who entered Taylor's home "without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers", opened fire "with a total disregard for the value of human life;" however, according to the police account, the officers did knock and announce themselves before forcing entry.
As the shooting occurred during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, at the beginning of an escalating nationwide wave of quarantines and lockdowns, the shooting initially did not receive widespread coverage or attention. Taylor's death became one of the most discussed and protested events of the broader movement.
Killing of George Floyd[edit source | edit]
According to a police statement, on May 25, 2020, at 8:08 p.m. CDT, Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers responded to a 9-1-1 call regarding a "forgery in progress" on Chicago Avenue South in Powderhorn, Minneapolis. MPD Officers Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng arrived with their body cameras turned on. A store employee told officers that the man was in a nearby car. Officers approached the car and ordered George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who according to police "appeared to be under the influence", to exit the vehicle, at which point he "physically resisted". According to the MPD, officers "were able to get the suspect into handcuffs, and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance." Once Floyd was handcuffed, he and Officer Lane walked to the sidewalk. Floyd sat on the ground at Officer Lane's direction. In a short conversation, the officer asked Floyd for his name and identification, explaining that he was being arrested for passing counterfeit currency, and asked if he was "on anything". According to the report officers Kueng and Lane attempted to help Floyd to their squad car, but at 8:14 p.m., Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Soon, MPD Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao arrived in a separate squad car. The officers made several more failed attempts to get Floyd into the squad car.
Floyd, who was still handcuffed, went to the ground face down. Officer Kueng held Floyd's back and Lane held his legs. Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Floyd's head and neck. A Facebook Live livestream recorded by a bystander showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck. Floyd repeatedly tells Chauvin "Please" and "I can't breathe", while a bystander is heard telling the police officer, "You got him down. Let him breathe." After some time, a bystander points out that Floyd was bleeding from his nose while another bystander tells the police that Floyd is "not even resisting arrest right now", to which the police tell the bystanders that Floyd was "talking, he's fine". A bystander replies saying Floyd "ain't fine". A bystander then protests that the police were preventing Floyd from breathing, urging them to "get him off the ground ... You could have put him in the car by now. He's not resisting arrest or nothing." Floyd then goes silent and motionless. Chauvin does not remove his knee until an ambulance arrives. Emergency medical services put Floyd on a stretcher. Not only had Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for about seven minutes (including four minutes after Floyd stopped moving) but another video showed an additional two officers had also knelt on Floyd while another officer watched.
Although the police report stated that medical services were requested prior to the time Floyd was placed in handcuffs, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Emergency Medical Services arrived at the scene six minutes after getting the call. Medics were unable to detect a pulse, and Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy of Floyd was conducted on May 26, and the next day, the preliminary report by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office was published, which found "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation". Floyd's underlying health conditions included coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The initial report said that "[t]he combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death." The medical examiner further said that Floyd was "high on fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamine at the time of his death".
On June 1, a private autopsy which was commissioned by the family of Floyd ruled that Floyd's death was a homicide and it also found that Floyd had died due to asphyxiation which resulted from sustained pressure, which conflicted with the original autopsy report which was completed earlier that week. Shortly after, the official post-mortem declared Floyd's death a homicide. Video footage of Officer Derek Chauvin applying 8 minutes 15 seconds of sustained pressure to Floyd's neck generated global attention and raised questions about the use of force by law enforcement.
On May 26, Chauvin and the other three officers were fired. He was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; the former charge was later changed to second-degree murder.
Major protests and riots[edit source | edit]
Ahmaud Arbery protests, May 8[edit source | edit]
NFAC protests, May 12[edit source | edit]
Template:Main articles Armed members of the Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC) have demonstrated in separate protests across the US, making their first appearance on May 12. On July 4, 100 to 200 NFAC members marched through Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Georgia, calling for the removal of the Confederate monument. On July 25, more than 300 members were gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the lack of action against the officers responsible for the March shooting of Breonna Taylor. On October 3, over 400 members of the NFAC along with over 200 other armed protesters marched in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana.
Breonna Taylor protests, May 26; jury verdict protests, September 23[edit source | edit]
Protest erupted again on September 23, the night after the grand jury verdict was announced, protesters gathered in the Jefferson Square Park area of Louisville, as well as many other cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Seattle. In Louisville, two LMPD officers were shot during the protest and one suspect was kept in custody.
George Floyd protests, May 26[edit source | edit]
The major catalyst of the unrest was the killing of George Floyd on May 25. Though it was not the first controversial killing of a black person in 2020, it sparked a much wider series of global protests and riots which continued into August 2020. As of June 8, there were at least 19 deaths related to the protests. The George Floyd protests are generally regarded as marking the start of the 2020 United States unrest.
In Minneapolis–Saint Paul alone, the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd was second-most destructive period of local unrest in United States history, after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Over a three night period, the cities experienced two deaths, 617 arrests, and upwards of $500 million in property damage to 1,500 locations, including 150 properties that were set on fire.
Sean Monterrosa protests, June 5 – October 2[edit source | edit]
On June 5, protests broke out regarding the June 2 killing of Sean Monterrosa, calling for racial justice. These protests continued sporadically but prominently all the way into at least October, resulting in some arrests.
Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, June 8[edit source | edit]
Established on June 8 in Seattle, CHAZ/CHOP was a self-declared autonomous zone established in defiance of the killing of George Floyd after police abandoned the East Precinct building. Groups like the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club provided security while the protesters themselves provided either resources or assisted the PSJBGC in security. Multiple people were killed in altercations with security and on July 1 the autonomous zone/occupied protest was officially cleared by the Seattle Police Department.
Rayshard Brooks protests, June 12[edit source | edit]
Andrés Guardado protests, June 18[edit source | edit]
Local protests emerged in response to the killing of Guardado on June 18 and involved protesters and media reporters being tear gassed and shot by rubber bullets at the sheriff's station in Compton. The incident was widely reported as the second police killing involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies within two days of one another, the other being Terron Jammal Boone, who was identified as the half-brother of 24-year-old Robert Fuller.
Colorado Springs protest, August 4[edit source | edit]
In Colorado Springs, a mixture of armed and unarmed left-wing protesters gathered to mark the one year anniversary of the shooting of De'Von Bailey, protesting in the neighborhood of the officer who shot and killed him. After threats of an armed counterprotest, protesters showed up armed. The protest was largely peaceful, except for multiple cases of heated shouting matches between protesters and residents. Later, on September 11, three people who attended the protest were arrested for various charges in a series of raids.
Stone Mountain incident, August 15[edit source | edit]
In Stone Mountain, armed Neo-Confederate demonstrators affiliated with the Three Percenters arrived to allegedly protect the Confederate monument, with their operation dubbed "Defend Stone Mountain". They were met with a larger group of armed left-wing counter-protesters, who began pushing them out of the town before the DeKalb County Police Department dispersed both parties. Several minor injuries were reported.
Portland "Back the Blue" Rally, August 22[edit source | edit]
The Downtown Portland "Back the Blue" Rally, organized by members of the Proud Boys and QAnon Movement, sparked violence between right-wing protesters and left-wing counter-protesters. Within an hour of meeting, both sides began pushing, punching, paint-balling, and macing each other. There was one incident in which a right-wing Proud Boys protester pointed a gun at left-wing protesters, with no shots fired.
Kenosha unrest and shooting, August 23 and 25; 2020 American athlete strikes[edit source | edit]
The shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23 sparked protests in a number of American cities, mostly within Kenosha. Two protesters were shot and killed in an incident during the protests. Nationally, athletes from the NHL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS began going on strike in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. On October 14, prosecutors announced that Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with killing the two protesters, would not face gun charges in Illinois.
Minneapolis false rumors riot, August 26[edit source | edit]
A riot occurred in downtown Minneapolis in reaction to false rumors about the suicide of Eddie Sole Jr., a 38-year-old African American man; demonstrators believed he had been shot by police officers. Surveillance video showed that Sole Jr. shot himself in the head during a manhunt for a homicide suspect in which he was the person of interest. Controversially, the police released the CCTV camera footage of the suicide in attempts to stop the unrest. Overnight vandalism and looting of stores from August 26 to 27 reached a total of 76 property locations in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, including four businesses that were set on fire. State and local officials arrested a total of 132 people during the unrest.
Portland Trump Caravan, August 29[edit source | edit]
On August 29, a large group of pro-Trump counterprotesters, arrived in downtown Portland by a vehicle convoy. They were met with opposition from the protesters, resulting in multiple instances of physical clashes. 1 counterprotester was shot and killed in an incident during the protest.
Dijon Kizzee protests, August 31[edit source | edit]
Dijon Kizzee, an armed cyclist, was shot and killed in the unincorporated Los Angeles neighborhood of Westmont on Aug 31 by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. For days, protesters gathered outside the heavily guarded South Los Angeles sheriff's station in tense but peaceful demonstrations. By September 6, those demonstrations escalated to clashes, with deputies firing projectiles and tear gas at the crowds and arresting 35 people over four nights of unrest.
Daniel Prude protests, September 2[edit source | edit]
On March 22, Daniel Prude was killed by Rochester, New York police officers in what was found by the county medical examiner to be a homicide caused through "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint". On September 2, the release of a police body camera video and written reports surrounding his death provoked protests in Rochester.
Deon Kay protests, September 2[edit source | edit]
On September 2, Deon Kay, an 18-year-old man, was shot and killed by a police officer in Washington, D.C. Later that day, protesters started gathering outside of the Seventh District Metropolitan Police Department building.
Ricardo Munoz protests, September 13[edit source | edit]
On September 13, Protests erupted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania after a police officer shot and killed Ricardo Munoz who allegedly ran at them with a knife. Police later deployed tear gas on a crowd of protesters, saying demonstrators had damaged buildings and government vehicles and thrown bottles.
Deja Stallings protests, October 1[edit source | edit]
On September 30, Police arrested 25-year-old Deja Stallings at gas station and convenience store in Kansas City, Missouri in relation to an alleged 15–20 individuals fighting on the business's property. Video footage showed an officer kneeling on the back of Stallings, who is nine months pregnant. In response to the video, demonstrators began protesting outside city hall demanding the resignation of Kansas City Police Department Chief Richard Smith and for the city to redirect 50% of the police department's budget to social services.
Jonathan Price protests, October 5[edit source | edit]
On October 5, 31-year old Jonathan Price was killed by a police officer in Wolfe City, Texas after allegedly trying to break off a fight. Protests broke out in major cities to which New York City and Los Angeles faced property damage after night of vandalism. Shaun David Lucas, a police officer who shot Price, was arrested and charged with murder.
Alvin Cole protests, October 7[edit source | edit]
On the afternoon of October 7, the district attorney in Milwaukee County decided to not press charges in relation to the fatal shooting of Alvin Cole, 17 in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin back in February. Protests subsequently occurred since October 7, leading to the arrest of 24 protesters on October 8 and 28 protesters on October 9.
Marcellis Stinnette protests, October 22[edit source | edit]
On October 22, 19-year old Marcellis Stinnette was shot and killed by an officer in Waukegan, Illinois. His girlfriend, 20-year old Tafarra Williams was also wounded, but is expected to survive. Protests occurred in Waukegan on October 22. The family of Jacob Blake, who was shot 16 miles north of Waukegan in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were also in attendance.
Walter Wallace Jr. protests, October 26[edit source | edit]
On October 26 Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by Philadelphia police officers while holding a knife and ignoring orders to drop it. A march for Wallace occurred in West Philadelphia, while other areas of the city reported looting and vandalism. Police also said 30 officers were injured, many struck by bricks and other debris and that 91 protesters were arrested.
Kevin Peterson Jr. protests, October 30[edit source | edit]
On October 29, Kevin Peterson Jr. was shot and killed by three Clark County sheriff's deputies in Hazel Dell, Washington, near Vancouver. Hundreds gathered in Hazel Dell for a vigil the following evening with protesters carrying signs saying “Honk for Black lives. White silence is violence” and “Scream his name,” and confronting right-wing counter-protesters. That night, hundreds of protesters marched through Downtown Vancouver, resulting in property damage and a confrontation with federal agents. At least one person was arrested after the protest was declared an unlawful assembly and a dispersal order was issued by police.
Protests against LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, November 23[edit source | edit]
On November 23, protesters gathered outside Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's home due to his refusal to further defund the LAPD. Protests increased when news was released regarding president-elect Joe Biden's consideration of adding Garcetti to his cabinet.
Red House eviction defense protest, December 8[edit source | edit]
On December 8, protesters in Portland gathered to blockade parts of the Humboldt Neighborhood in order to protect a family who had been evicted after living in said house for 65 years. Protesters blockaded the area similar to the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.
Casey Goodson protests, December 11[edit source | edit]
On December 4, Casey Goodson was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, in front of his house. Goodson was killed by a member of a fugitive task force, but Columbus Police have stated that he was not the man the task force was looking for. Protests were held on December 11 and December 12.
Bennie Edwards protests, December 11[edit source | edit]
On December 11, Bennie Edwards, a schizophrenic homeless man, was killed by Oklahoma City police while wielding a knife. Demonstrations were held later that evening.
Andre Hill protests, December 24[edit source | edit]
Template:Main articles On December 22, Andre Hill (also identified as Andre' Hill) was killed by a Columbus Police officer as he left a house where he was a guest. On Christmas Eve, protests were held in response to the shooting. The shooting was the second police killing in Columbus in the month, following the shooting of Casey Goodson.
Dolal Idd protests, December 30[edit source | edit]
Template:Main articles On December 30, Dolal Idd, a 23-year old Somali-American man, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers during a felony traffic stop. Idd's death was the first killing by a Minneapolis police since George Floyd on May 25.
Themes and demands[edit source | edit]
"Defund the police"[edit source | edit]
Unlike recent racial protests in the United States before it, the 2020 protests frequently included the slogan "defund the police", representing a call for divestment in policing. The degree of divestment advocated varied, with some protesters calling for elimination of police departments, and others for reduced budgets. Supporters of partial or complete defunding of the police argued that budgets should be directed instead towards community-driven police alternatives, investment in mental health and substance abuse treatment services, job-training programs, or other forms of investment into black urban communities. In June 2020, New York City mayor Bill De Blasio responded to calls for divestment by cutting $1B of the New York City Police Department (NYPD)'s $6B budget and directing it instead to city youth groups and social services, a reduction of 17%. The cut mostly involved shifting some responsibilities to other city agencies, with the size of the force barely changing.
The city council in Minneapolis voted in June to "end policing as we know it" and replace it with a "holistic" approach to public safety, but by September 2020, the pledge collapsed without implementation. An increasing number of community groups had opposed the pledge, a poll from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune showed that a plurality of residents, including 50% of black people, opposed decreasing the size of the police force, and city councilors cited alarm from business owners and residents in more affluent areas of their wards who feared for their safety, as beliefs anticipating an immediate end to the police department proliferated. Incremental reforms of a type that the city's progressive politicians had denounced were pursued in lieu of the pledge. The Black Visions Collective, an activist group seeking police abolition, called past reforms "weak" and stated, "It is the nature of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy or any of these other systems of oppression to want to do what is necessary to save themselves" and "To adapt. To mutate. To move. To slow progress."
Nationwide, defunding the police has not received broad support from congressional Democrats, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, or 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden; both Sanders and Biden support reform instead. Defunding the police was heavily criticized by President Donald Trump.
Monument removals[edit source | edit]
Protesters have called for the removal of statues commemorating historical figures who are perceived as racist by modern standards. Often those depicted in the statues were responsible for human rights violations. A number were either removed by authorities, or vandalized and toppled by protesters. In particular, the statues of Confederate war veterans and politicians as well as of Christopher Columbus. Statues of United States presidents, including the Emancipation Memorial featuring Abraham Lincoln, have also been vandalized and attacked by protesters.
Related racial unrest outside the United States[edit source | edit]
- For further information, see List of George Floyd protests outside the United States
Writing for Foreign Affairs, professor Brenda Gayle Plummer noted that "The particulars of Floyd's murder, taking place against the backdrop of the pandemic, may well have been the dam-break moment for the global protest movement. But they are only part of the story. International solidarity with the African American civil rights struggle comes not from some kind of projection or spontaneous sentiment; it was seeded by centuries of black activism abroad and foreign concern about human rights violations in the United States."
Netherlands[edit source | edit]
Related racial unrest in the Netherlands included widespread participation in George Floyd protests. The unrest has led to a change in public opinion on Zwarte Piet, a character used in Dutch Sinterklaas celebrations who has been historically portrayed in blackface. Leaving the appearance of Zwarte Piet unaltered has traditionally been supported by the public but opposed by anti-racism campaigners, but a June 2020 survey saw a drop in support for leaving the character's appearance unaltered: 47 per cent of those surveyed supported the traditional appearance, compared to 71 per cent in a similar survey held in November 2019. Prime minister Mark Rutte stated in a parliamentary debate on June 5, 2020 that he had changed his opinion on the issue and now has more understanding for people who consider the character's appearance to be racist.
United Kingdom[edit source | edit]
The 2020–2021 United States racial unrest has triggered protests, political gestures and policy changes in the United Kingdom, both in solidarity with the United States and in comparable protest against racism in the United Kingdom. The debate over statues of certain historical figures has been a significant feature of the unrest in Britain, following the unauthorized removal of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol on June 11 during a protest in the city. The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote a three-page letter to MPs, peers and councillors arguing against the removal of statues. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned protesters who defaced the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square in London, and several statues were subsequently covered up as a precaution.
Social impact[edit source | edit]
In late May to June 2020, the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery led to a racial reckoning that greatly increased sentiment regarding systemic racism in the United States, with changes occurring in public opinion, government, industry, and sports. This racial reckoning aimed at confronting a legacy of systemic inequality and racial injustice stemming from overt discrimination and unconscious bias in the societal treatment of black Americans, who have experienced disproportionately negative outcomes in the form of racial inequality such as in education, health care, housing, imprisonment, voting rights and wages. While most black Americans acutely felt these issues, many white Americans were insulated.
Previously, there had been protests and riots over killings of black Americans by law enforcement. The 2014 killing of Michael Brown, the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, the 2015 Charleston church shooting, and the 2017 Charlottesville rally received headlines yet did not lead to systemic change or as wide a level of support. However, the videos of Floyd's death and police violence at protests resonated with many white Americans. White people have attended the George Floyd protests and continuing related protests in greater numbers than they had prior protests of killings of black Americans by law enforcement.
Public opinion[edit source | edit]
By mid-June, after weeks of protests during the global COVID-19 pandemic and recession, American national culture and attitude towards racial injustice began to shift, including the Senate Armed Services Committee's approval of process to rename military facilities named for Confederate generals. American public opinion of racism and discrimination shifted in the wake of these protests. Polling of white Americans showed an increased belief in having received advantages due to their race and increased belief that black Americans received disproportionate force in policing. Public opinion in support of the Black Lives Matter movement greatly increased, with a surge of "am I racist" searches and a greater approval for removing Confederate statues and memorials. However, support for the Black Lives Matter movement declined by August and September 2020.
The increased approval of racial justice reform may have been influenced by opposition towards President Donald Trump's support for police, greater understanding of disparate pandemic effects by race, and a weakened sense of security following the COVID-19 pandemic's social distancing and an economic fallout with the COVID-19 recession. Others had grown accustomed to protest under Trump or were responding to his racial views, agitation and "demagoguery" or handling of the pandemic. Some white Americans reported feeling more social permission from other white people to support Black Lives Matter whereas it would have felt conspicuous prior.
Public debate[edit source | edit]
- For further information, see White backlash
Faced with civil unrest, politicians fulfilled promises to remove Confederate symbols. Activism spread to other Confederate symbols, especially the modern display of the Confederate battle flag. NASCAR banned its display, and organizations including Walmart and the NCAA announced that they would no longer fly the Mississippi flag, the last state flag to include the symbol. The state also voted to retire the flag. The removal of symbols caused national debate over the appropriateness of statues of figures tied to racial injustice.
Public backlash widened to other institutional symbols, including place names, namesakes, brands and resignations. Examples include Rhode Island removing "Providence Plantations" from the state's formal name, plans to remove the Native American below a sword from the Massachusetts state flag and seal, Princeton University renaming its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs,  household products such as Aunt Jemima syrup, Uncle Ben's rice and Cream of Wheat pledging to review racial stereotypes in their marketing, music groups including the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum changing their names to remove references to the Southern United States, and the Washington Redskins pledging to change its name following pressure from business sponsors and a 12-year advocacy campaign. Some firms in the music industry also phased out the term "urban music" and a social media debate considered whether the United States should change its national anthem based on a verse that some historians interpret as supporting violence against slaves. Companies that had donated to Black Lives Matter causes without addressing internal diversity issues were criticized on social media. Leaders in the media and entertainment industries were also criticized over their handling of racial issues, as were other celebrities and actors. Debates continued across corporate leadership, media organizations and other cultural institutions. Researchers also went on strike in support of the movement.
Public conversations on race and power extended to other cultural practices. One debate addressed racial vocabulary. Hundreds of news organizations modified their style guides to capitalize "Black" as a proper noun in recognition of the term's shared political identity and experiences. Merriam-Webster modified its definition of racism. GitHub reconsidered and replaced words and phrases with similarities to discriminatory terms such as "master bedroom" and "whitelist"/"blacklist", which also encompassed "master/slave" distinctions in technology and also situations which refer to the master as the opposite of a copy. Real estate and technology organizations announced they would use more inclusive alternatives. Journalists at major American newspapers contested their own coverage of the events. In the music industry, the BMG Rights Management announced it would reevaluate its record deals for race-based compensation disparities. Major record labels began searches for diversity officers and the Black Music Action Coalition formed to address industry racial inequities. The major sports channel ESPN began to air political commentary, reversing a longstanding mandate to separate sports from politics. College athletes led boycotts and a wildcat strike during the NBA playoff led to a work stoppage from other American professional athletes following the August shooting of Jacob Blake.
Consumer behavior[edit source | edit]
Anti-racist self-education became a trend throughout June 2020 in the United States and black anti-racist writers found new audiences. During the Floyd protests, black-owned bookstores saw an influx of interest, especially for books on social justice topics. In the span of two weeks from early to late June, books about race went from composing none to two-thirds of The New York Times Best Seller list. Amazon sales saw a similar pattern. In comparison, no such surge happened after prior prominent Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Popular black authors included Ibram X. Kendi (How to Be an Antiracist, Stamped from the Beginning), Ijeoma Oluo (So You Want to Talk About Race) and Layla Saad (Me and White Supremacy). Bestsellers also include black biographies and memoirs (Becoming, Born a Crime, Between the World and Me, Just Mercy), anti-racist books by white authors (White Fragility, The Color of Law) and older books (The New Jim Crow, The Fire Next Time). Online library checkouts of anti-racist literature increased tenfold by mid-June. Some municipal libraries saw waitlists in the thousands per title. Amazon's tracking of daily e-book readers and audiobook listeners reflected the increased readership, when many of the aforementioned books entered its most-read list.
American consumers sought out black-owned businesses to support. June saw record high Google searches for "Black-owned businesses near me" and smartphone restaurant discovery apps added features for discovering black-owned restaurants. Businesses on social media lists saw significantly increased sales. Black-owned bookstores in particular had difficulty meeting demand. There was also a social media and Facebook boycott on self-education.
Many major American corporations pursued anti-racism and diversity training workshops, particularly companies seeking to be consistent with their Black Lives Matter messaging. Demand for these trainings had grown over time, especially since 2016, interest in diversity training bookings spiked during this period of reckoning. Robin DiAngelo, whose White Fragility topped the Amazon bestsellers list, rose to prominence during this time and was a popular speaker.
Analysis[edit source | edit]
The recent scrutiny on race relations in the United States brought comparisons to the Weinstein effect in which the Me Too movement put pressure on public figures for legacies of sexual assault and harassment. Similarly, the American public under its racial injustice reckoning pressured American industries to confront legacies of racism. The resulting symbolic divestments targeted white cultural hegemony. NPR wrote that renamed landmarks and similar gestures would not provide economic opportunities or civil rights, but signaled cultural disapproval towards symbols associated with racial injustice, including the history of racism and slavery. The New Yorker compared the dispersed national response to an "American Spring" on par with the Arab Spring and other international revolutionary waves. Global protests also focused on symbols of racial injustice, with The New Yorker also having a part on international solidarity towards police violence.
Firearms[edit source | edit]
The unrest precipitated an unprecedented number of firearm sales in the United States Background checks for legally purchased firearms reached record highs starting in May, with year-on-year numbers up 80.2% and running through the rest of the summer. This represented the highest monthly number of firearms transfers since the FBI began keeping records in 1998.
In May 2020, firearms retailers surveyed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers, 40% of those first-time gun buyers were women. Gun sales have been up across the country, a rise in first-time gun buyers in liberal-leaning states like California have helped fuel the national uptick in firearms and ammunition purchases. June 2020 represented the largest month of firearms purchases in United States history, with Illinois purchasing more firearms than any other state.
The last days of May and first week of June 2020, there were more than 90 attempted or successful burglaries of gun stores, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF). More than 1,000 guns were stolen in that window of time. On May 31 alone, the BATF reported 29 separate burglaries targeting licensed firearm retailers.
Maps[edit source | edit]
See also[edit source | edit]
- Killing of Manuel Ellis
- List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States
- Mass racial violence in the United States
- Timeline of notable Black Lives Matter events and demonstrations in the United States
- 2020–2021 United States election protests
- Similar unrest
- Ghetto riots in the United States (1964–1969)
- 1980 Miami riots
- 1992 Los Angeles riots
- 2014 Ferguson unrest
- 2015 Baltimore protests
- 2017 Charlottesville protests (Unite the Right rally)
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Further reading[edit source | edit]
- Balz, Dan (July 5, 2020). "The politics of race are shifting, and politicians are struggling to keep pace". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 5, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Fletcher, Michael A. (July 2, 2020). "America is facing a reckoning over race, but we've seen this before". The Undefeated. Archived from the original on September 5, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Friedler, Delilah (June 24, 2020). "The reckoning is about more than police violence". Mother Jones. Archived from the original on July 4, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
- Griggs, Brandon (June 25, 2020). "This is pop culture's moment of reckoning on matters of race". CNN. Archived from the original on July 1, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
- Harmon, Amy; Mandavilli, Apoorva; Maheshwari, Sapna; Kantor, Jodi (June 13, 2020). "From Cosmetics to NASCAR, Calls for Racial Justice Are Spreading". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 20, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Harmon, Amy; Burch, Audra D. S. (June 22, 2020). "White Americans Say They Are Waking Up to Racism. What Will It Add Up To?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- MacQuarrie, Brian (July 15, 2020). "In time of racial reckoning, Founding Fathers increasingly viewed through modern lens". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
- McLaughlin, Eliott C. (August 9, 2020). "How George Floyd's death ignited a racial reckoning that shows no signs of slowing down". CNN. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
- "Resources to understand America's long history of injustice and inequality". The Washington Post. June 26, 2020. Archived from the original on September 5, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
- Thompson, Alex (June 9, 2020). "White America is reckoning with racism. It could reshape 2020". Politico. Archived from the original on July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Worland, Justin (June 11, 2020). "America's Long Overdue Awakening to Systemic Racism". Time. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
[edit source | edit]
- "America Reckons With Racial Injustice" – NPR's special series
Visibility[edit source | edit]
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