Dickinsonians have been protesting and participating in online activism in response to the death of George Floyd, a 46 year-old man killed in police custody after former officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed and pinned Floyd to the ground on May 25.
Bystanders recorded the encounter and Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” as Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck. The video was spread across social media and on May 26, protests began in Minneapolis. In the subsequent days, protests concerning the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement began across the United States. According to its website, the Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in 2013 after the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and works to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” While the protests and unrest began in response to the killing of Floyd, demonstrators also cite the overarching issue of systematic racism in policing systems and police brutality towards people of color as the main motivations to their actions.
“I went because the most valuable form of support I can give to BLM is my body at a protest. I also talk the talk quite a bit so it was time to walk the walk,” said Alex Arnette ’22. “When I got there, I was most surprised at the turnout. I thought it would be small but there were easily 150 people there. I have been to many protests for all different causes and at this one the police were most on guard and present. The Williamsburg climate march had twice the people and a quarter of the police.”
“I think it made me feel a part of a movement, and I think I needed to feel the emotion and impact of being alongside allies and black folk who were collectively gathered for a cause. The emotion was so raw, and under disgusting circumstances, perhaps these rallies bring us together more,” Rachel Prince ’21 explained. “Like I think it’s important for white people to be uncomfortable, hear the tears and voices of black people. The rallies allow for that, and it’s incredibly moving and it pushes you to feel more- to be less apathetic and to do better.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some protestors did not feel comfortable situating themselves in a group of people to protest. As a result, online activism has become a way to share resources, petitions, and statistics.
“I chose not to attend in person protests in large part because of the pandemic, but I was not entirely upset because while protests are impactful, there are other ways to contribute to the BLM movement. I signed many petitions, put educational information on my Instagram stories and created a fundraiser for a specific cause that I thought was providing a valuable service,” said Caroline Strapp ’22. “Even if you can’t show up at a protest it is equally important if not more so to participate in silent activism (like donations and petitions) and have education conversations with family and friends.”