By Lily Ha
PHN Issue 43, Summer 2020
Since the end of May 2020, there have been major uprisings in the USA and across the world against racism and police violence. This timeline summarizes some of the important events in these uprisings and political upheaval to date.
- May 25: A Black man, George Floyd, was killed by police in Minneapolis. It was reported that he was being arrested over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill. Officer Derek Chauvin was filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes while Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” He died while three other officers stood by and did nothing. A video taken by a bystander was posted online and shared across the world.
- May 26 to today: Protests and rioting began in Minneapolis and quickly spread to other cities. Other recent killings of Black people, mostly by police, are being protested at this time, too, including:
- Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police while sleeping in Louisville, KY
- Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed by two white men while jogging in Glynn County, GA
- Tony McDade, a Black transgender man killed by police in Tallahassee, FL
- Elijah McClain, a Black autistic man killed by police while walking home from the store in Aurora, CO
Over the following two weeks, there were protests and riots against racism and police violence in over 2,000 cities and towns. These protests happened in every state in the USA and on every continent in the world:
- May 29: Protesters in Minneapolis took over and burned down a police precinct.
- June 2: Minneapolis schools announced they will end their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and take cops out of their schools. On June 5, Portland, OR schools announced they will do the same.
- By June 3 the National Guard was deployed in cities across the country and many cities and states implemented curfews to try to put down the uprising.
- On June 4, about 70 immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Mesa Verde Detention Facility in California began a hunger strike against racism and ICE detention.
“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE,” their statement read in part.’
- Also June 4, the American Public Health Association released a statement declaring, “The current protests are the result of the American people rightfully demanding an end to the racial profiling by some police officers and a system of structured racism resulting in disproportionate harm to the health of individuals and communities of color.
- June 7: Minneapolis City Council announced they intend to defund and disband the MPD.
- June 8: Police abandoned a precinct building in Seattle and protesters took over the six blocks around it. They named it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. They occupied the area for 3 weeks, keeping cops out.
- June 12: The New York Times published an op-ed supporting abolishing the police. The uprising has brought the idea of abolishing the police into the mainstream. Many cities have tried to calm people down with surface-level reforms, like banning chokeholds and disciplining individual officers, but the people have made it clear that these are not enough.
Protesters used a variety of tactics. There were big marches with thousands of people. People destroyed Confederate monuments and statues of racists. Some people busted up shopping districts and took things from stores. Many police cars were burned.
The people provided free food, water, and first aid to each other at the protests. Almost everyone at protests, except for the cops, has worn masks to protect each other from the spread of COVID-19.
Many occupation-style protests have happened across the country. Several have focused on providing housing for unhoused people. One involved people taking over a hotel in Minneapolis, and another involved moving people into vacant public housing in Philadelphia.
During the uprisings, cops have been filmed across the country using extreme brutality against protesters, reporters, medics, and bystanders. Multiple people lost eyesight to tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. Videos of cops tear-gassing, beating, pepper-spraying, and intentionally running into people with their cars, unprovoked, have turned public opinion even more in favor of the uprisings and against police.
While the uprising was sparked by police violence, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has influenced the uprising, too. Many protesters have connected the dots between state violence through police and prisons to the state’s violence in letting COVID-19 disproportionately hurt marginalized
communities. COVID-19 has sickened and killed Black, Brown, and incarcerated people at a much higher rate. Mass unemployment caused by COVID-19 shutdowns and the government’s lack of support has created a lot of anger. At the same time, it has given many more people free time to protest.
Between May 25 and July 3, over 14,000 people have been arrested at protests. In that same time period, police have killed at least 96 people in the USA. The protests have not stopped and are showing no signs of stopping any time soon.