By Nathan Tucker
On May 25, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes as he lay handcuffed on the ground. The killing sparked protests worldwide.
The killing sparked anger that had been boiling after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, a black man, was murdered by two white men who began to follow him while he was out for a jog. Arbery was unarmed.
George Floyd is not even the most recent black man killed by a police officer in the US. David McAtee, a restaurant owner in Louisville, was shot by police with live ammunition early in the morning on June 1st. His body laid in the street for hours.
Police say that McAtee fired first, but protesters on the scene and McAtee’s family have refuted that claim. Marvin McAtee, David’s nephew, said he was never the kind of man to escalate.
“He’s gonna calm and diffuse any type of situation. Even the police, they have no type of problems with this man,” Marvin McAtee said, speaking with NPR this week. “Businessman first. Big on family, family-oriented. He’s the one that — he’s basically a grandma, but he’s male — sticks the family together, you know?”
Louisville was already reeling from the death of Breonna Taylor, 26, at the hands of their police, back in March. Plainclothes officers broke into Taylor’s home with a “no-knock warrant” for drugs. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker said he did not hear officers announce themselves and fired a single shot, hitting one officer.
Taylor was shot eight times by police in response. The FBI is now investigating Taylor’s killing. Louisville police are currently “under review” from a third-party firm investigating their training and accountability, according to city mayor Greg Fischer.
While Taylor’s death popped into social media feeds of many in March, it was lost in the mix of news in early March, as COVID-19 was dominating headlines as the US entered a quarantine/pandemic situation for the first time in a century.
Protesters marching and gathering have been largely wearing masks and keeping a wider distance than protests in the past. Health officials in Minnesota, where protests and actions have been centered, are instructing those who’ve been in gatherings and protests to get tested regardless of how they feel.
Here in the St. Louis region, these types of protests are not new. After Michael Brown’s killing by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, St. Louis was the epicenter of a worldwide protest against police brutality, and was essentially the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protests within and around the city have fluctuated between intense and serene. Within the city, where civil suits are still being paid out over St. Louis police “kettling” protesters in downtown in 2017, tensions between police and protesters were at their highest.
The night of June 1 was the most violent in the city. Police clashed with protesters, and several businesses in downtown had windows broken and items stolen.
Former police captain David Dorn was murdered in an attempt to protect his friend’s pawn shop from a group of men who were looting the store. A live stream showed his body lying dead on the pavement outside Lee’s Pawn & Jewelry in St. Louis. Dorn was 77.
“Oh my God, cuz,” a young man says on the stream. “They just killed this old man at the pawn shop over some TVs… C’mon, man, that’s somebody’s granddaddy.”
St. Louis police reported that four officers were shot early in the morning on June 2. St. Louis police Chief John Hayden believes that a “coward” took random shots at the police line. As protesters had been long gone by this point of the night, it’s not thought that this shooting was tied to the protests in any way.
The headlines of police being shot all but drowned out other coverage of protests in the region and city itself. Peaceful and moving protests around the area have been overshadowed by the shooting, and unfortunately, the message many protests are preaching gets lost in conversation.
Ferguson, where the Black Lives Matter movement largely originated, had one tense evening of protests with protesters squaring off with police Memorial Day weekend, and windows being broken out of the police department building. Since that night, protests in Ferguson have been calm, with police not escalating, and even linking arms with protesters in the streets.
Even closer to the Lewis & Clark campus in Godfrey, multiple protests have broken out in Alton, and more are scheduled. A peaceful protest took place at the Alton police department, and was attended by a few hundred who dispersed after a few hours.
About fifty or so people flocked to Ketchum’s Corner Kreem to protest racist comments made by its owner on Facebook. The night of the protest, the ice cream stand was vandalized, and Alton police arrested four in connection with a large firework that was thrown at the stand.
When reached for comment by Riverbender, the owner of Ketchum’s did not respond.
Protests have sparked a wave of incidents of police attacking protesters armed with little more than water bottles and cell phones. These incidents have largely been captured thanks to bystanders posting and sharing videos, outrage over the police brutality displayed has given protesters fuel for more protests.
On June 5 in Buffalo, a local NPR affiliate captured two Buffalo police officers shoving a 75-year old man. The man fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement, and bled out of his ear.
Video of this incident, and many others, have prompted police departments into suspending officers. The day after that video went viral, protests were larger than they’ve ever been in the city of Buffalo.
If this is a sign of things to come, protests will seemingly continue worldwide until videos of police targeting peaceful protesters and media stop being regular parts of many people’s social media feeds.