When I first found out about the George Floyd protests, I didn’t really know what was going on and my main concern was that it might cause another wave of COVID-19 cases to appear.
In the next few days, I started seeing it everywhere. Trust me, when your favorite pen and stationery blogs all started simultaneously post about current events instead of all things stationery related, you know something is up.
So I started reading and the more I read, the more I learned about how African-Americans are treated, and the more enraged I become. This isn’t new, just earlier this year, there were two incidents of African-Americans dying for no reason.
On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia, while jogging on Holmes Road just before the intersection with Satilla Drive in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Arbery had been pursued and confronted by two white residents, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory, who were armed and driving a pickup truck The event was recorded on video by a third Satilla Shores resident, William “Roddie” Bryan, who was following Arbery in a second vehicle. The death and events following the investigation have sparked debates about the lack of racial equality, and have been reported internationally.Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery
On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman, was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers. Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, and Detective Myles Cosgrove broke into her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Gunfire was exchanged between Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and LMPD officers who entered the apartment. The LMPD officers fired over twenty shots, Taylor was shot eight times and Mattingly was injured by gunfire. Another police officer and an LMPD lieutenant were on the scene when the warrant was executed.
The LMPD investigation was searching for two people who were already in police custody and suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house more than 10 miles (16 km) away. One of the people in custody, Jamarcus Glover, had a prior relationship with Taylor. The search warrant included Taylor’s residence because it was suspected of receiving drugs in the case and because a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of Glover’s house. No drugs were found in the apartment.Shooting of Breonna Taylor
And after the death of George Floyd that sent not just the whole of US into a state of mass protest but internationally as well, you would think that this turning point would result in some form of systemic racial reform, or at the very least, a wake-up call to all the racial issues. But no, things just got worse.
Instead, we get articles with headlines like “Protests about police brutality are met with wave of police brutality across US” and “Teargassed, beaten up, arrested: what freedom of the press looks like in the US right now”.
Here are a few excerpts:
On Saturday 30 May, officers in a police SUV drove at a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn, knocking several to the ground. A day earlier, a police officer was caught on camera violently shoving a woman to the ground during a demonstration. The woman, Dounya Zayer, was taken to hospital and said she suffered a seizure and concussion.
At another New York protest, an officer yanked a facemask from an African American man who was standing with his hands in the air, then pepper-sprayed him in the face.
In Buffalo, in western New York state, two officers shoved a 75-year-old man to the ground. A video showed the man hitting his head on the ground, causing his blood to spill on the sidewalk. He is now gravely ill in hospital.
On Thursday, a video posted to Twitter showed a group of police beating peaceful protesters in Philadelphia. One officer is seen using a baton to hit a man on the head, before he and another officer pin him to the ground.“Protests about police brutality are met with wave of police brutality across US”
“They literally started throwing concussive grenades in our direction, in the middle of the journalists,” he says. The police approached Ou directly and maced him in the face, spraying his camera, too. What ensued was a prolonged attack that involved being hit at with batons, being teargassed, dodging concussive grenades and begging for help.
The account has been corroborated by several other journalists on the ground, including the Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Cole, who incurred an eye injury, and Molly Hennesy-Fiske, who was shot with rubber bullets several times in the leg. They describe the journalists as having been “completely against the wall, in an alcove, at least 15ft off the road to allow the police line to pass”.
Having covered conflict nationally and internationally for years, each express that whilst they understand the dangers of covering civil unrest, they never expected to be directly attacked by police forces in America. “I have never been shot at by police – even when covering protests overseas and war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Hennessy-Fiske.
This is what freedom of the press in America has looked like over the past week. As of 9pm Thursday, the US press freedom tracker has received 192 reports of journalists being attacked by police forces while covering the protests across the US.“Teargassed, beaten up, arrested: what freedom of the press looks like in the US right now”
Words can’t express how enraged I feel right now. Was I too naive in thinking that most police officers would have a heart and not fight back with more brutality? Was I too naive in hoping that most of the US would unite and this would be a wake-up call to the various police departments to stop their brutality?
Perhaps, but at least in some cities, the police officers have joined the protesters in their march to end the brutality. That gave me a little hope, I just wish more police officers would join the protesters.