June 2020

Protesters Rally for Social Justice

A mural created as a memorial to George Floyd.A mural created as a memorial to George Floyd.

A mural created as a memorial to George Floyd.
A protestor takes a moment to reflect in front of a mural that has become a memorial to George Floyd. The mural is located near the spot where Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Starting at the end of May, many people gathered to protest in response to the killing of an African American man named George Floyd. People around the country were outraged after they saw a video of him being killed by a police officer during his arrest on May 25, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The protests began in that city and called for the officer that killed Floyd to be arrested and charged with his murder. It took several days, but finally the officer was arrested. Protests spread across the country and even around the world. More and more people wanted to speak out about Floyd and other black lives taken in acts of police violence. Protesters have been encouraged to wear masks and remain as far apart as possible due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Floyd’s death happened just after the death of an African American healthcare worker, Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky. She was shot by police officers in her own home. Earlier this year, Ahmaud Aubrey, a young African American man, was also shot and killed. It happened while he was jogging in a Glynn County, Georgia neighborhood. One of the killers was a former police officer. It took weeks for the officer and his accomplices to be arrested. These and many other killings are part of a long history of the police and justice system in the United States treating black people unequally. There are many police officers who do a good job and care for the communities they protect and serve. But unfortunately, there are some who act on personal feelings of prejudice and abuse their power as authority figures. In some police departments, discriminatory policies and leadership have allowed this to happen.

In the United States, the fight for equality for people of color has been going on for a long time. After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States in 1865, African Americans still faced discrimination and unequal treatment. In the early 1900s, black leaders and groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) started what became known as the Civil Rights movement. They fought to change laws and practices that discriminated against African Americans. The Civil Rights movement gained strength in the 1960s when important leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped end segregation and guarantee the right to vote for black people. Still, racism did not end. Social media has helped bring attention to some of the injustices black people still face today. Activists started using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to organize and raise awareness on social media.

Most of the ongoing protests and rallies have been peaceful. People are chanting, holding signs, giving speeches, and singing protest songs. They do these things to raise awareness and to call on leaders to make changes. Some of the protests have turned violent, as police have used tear gas, pepper spray, and other means to break them up. In some places, people who may or may not be involved with the protests started fires or stole items from stores. Most activists stressed the importance of the protests remaining peaceful.

Kids also got involved in protesting police violence against people of color. Wee The People, the Philly Children’s Movement, and other organizations hosted Wee Chalk the Walk: A Family Day of Action for Black Lives. This allowed children to do art and other projects on their own city blocks in order to maintain social distancing guidelines. The hope was that these activities would help families start conversations about racism and the importance of speaking out. Some events happened on live streaming platforms, including an online rally called #Kidlit Community Rally for Black Lives.

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance hosted a series of virtual town halls about racial injustice. Young activists and leaders like former President Barack Obama spoke about policy changes that are already happening due to the protests. For example, some cities across the country have started making key changes to their police departments. Civil rights leader and U.S. Congress member John Lewis also attended one of the town halls. He offered these words of encouragement: “To see so many young people, . . it give(s) me great hope. . . It’s all going to work out. But we must help it work out. We must continue to be bold, brave, courageous, push and pull, ’til we redeem the soul of America and move closer to a community at peace with itself. But no one, no one, will be left out or left behind because of race or color or nationality.”

Image credit: ©Kerem Yucel / AFP/Getty Images

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Question 1
What are most of the protesters in the United States speaking out about?

Question 2
Which organization hosted a series of town halls about racial injustice?

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