“Within the last several weeks we have had to hashtag the names of far too many black lives who were taken away from us due to the clinging grip of white supremacy,” public academic Rachel Cargle said in an extraordinary public address. “But this is nothing new for the United States of America.”
On 25 May 2020, white police officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department pinned 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man, to the ground. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, even while Floyd gasped out 16 times that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd lost consciousness and was pronounced dead after being taken away by an ambulance.
The event reopened barely healed wounds. It came weeks after us hearing about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was chased and shot by white residents from a neighborhood in South Georgia. Two months after the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot eight times after Louisville police burst into her apartment. 3 years after a St. Louis Police officer was acquitted for murder charges after killing 24-year-old black man Anthony Lamar Smith. Six years after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, by a white police officer, who was never charged.
Black Americans are nearly twice as likely as a Latinx person to be killed by the police. They’re almost three times more likely to be killed than somebody white. Research by the group Mapping Police Violence finds that 99% of police killings from 2014 to 2019 did not result in officers being charged with or convicted of a crime.
The following speeches delivered to protests around the US or in response to them, process this information. They’re coursing with emotion. With fire. With tears. With demands that we do not take these events lying down and that we all stand up for black lives!
Tamika Mallory – “Don’t talk to us about looting. Y’all are the looters.”
The activist and co-founder of Until Freedom, an organisation fighting to address systemic injustice, delivered an incredibly impassioned response to George Floyd’s death.
SPEAK SISTER!! They want the looting to stop? Then THEY got to stop looting our black brown and native brothers and sisters.. NO JUSTICE NO PEACE ✊?@tamikadmallory #georgefloyd pic.twitter.com/Ebi05C0C67
— Eddie Griffin (@EddieGriffinCom) May 29, 2020
Killer Mike – “We have to be better than burning down our own homes.”
On 29 May, four days after George Floyd’s death, rapper and activist Killer Mike took to the stage in a press conference organised by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
His emotional 8-minute speech, wrapping in a personal connection to the police, the story of segregation and systemic racism, and calls for unity, has become a touchstone for change.
Trevor Noah — “Everything that happens in the world connects to something else”
Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s take, spread over two videos uploaded on Twitter, connects together news stories from the past week: protests and riots across the US, George Floyd’s death, and the story of Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police on black man Christian Cooper, after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.
(1/2) Trevor on George Floyd, the Minneapolis protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper:
“While everyone is facing the battle against coronavirus, black people in America are still facing the battle against racism… and coronavirus.” pic.twitter.com/eaVUdq6NzJ
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) May 30, 2020
Rachel Cargle — “You are seen, heard and affirmed in your anger. In your sadness. In your rage. In your fear.”
A measured, but fiery response from activist and academic Rachel Cargle. In a public broadcast on YouTube she honoured the lives lost and set out the work ahead, making a stark comparison between President Trump’s response to armed white men protesting the lockdown inside a State Capitol, and unarmed black protestors on the street.
Protestors on the street — “How we doing it, it ain’t working.”
A moment of raw connection between three protesters of different generations, the video has been seen over 21 million times and was shared by Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King.
Power and pain.
I wept as I watched this.
Watch it without judgment.
Hear each Black man.
Power and pain.pic.twitter.com/fD69nzU2tT
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 31, 2020
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez — “If you want the end of unrest, you should be asking for measures that actually liberate people”
30-year-old Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) has spent her 18 months in the House of Representatives fighting against structural injustice in the US. In a live address on Instagram, she said people who really care about helping protesters must also fight for structural change.
.@AOC: If you're calling for an end to unrest, but not calling out police brutality, not calling for health care as a human right, not calling for an end to housing discrimination, all you're asking for is the continuation of quiet oppression. pic.twitter.com/4qiCCxKvdl
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 30, 2020
Mother of murdered Hmong man Fong Lee — “We need to love each other and join hands.”
Proof that connection goes beyond a shared language. Teary-eyed, the mother of Fong Lee, a Hmong man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2006, delivered an emotional speech in her native language calling for unity and solidarity with George Floyd protesters. Translation here.
Fong Lee was killed by a MPLS police officer in 2006. The officer was acquitted. Today, Fong’s mother gave an emotional speech in Hmong, encouraging the Hmong community stand w/ the Black community. On George Floyd: “This is something that hurts. We have to join hands with them.” pic.twitter.com/cfhlqiSoaV
— Chenue Her (@ChenueHer) June 1, 2020
James Baldwin — “How much time do you want for your ‘progress’?”
The frustration felt by many who fight for change was expressed in an iconic 23-second speech by writer and activist James Baldwin, broadcast in a 1989 documentary, 2 years after his death.
Malcolm X — “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress.”
A brilliant quote from legendary activist Malcolm X, who was murdered in 1965.