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George Floyd protests

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George Floyd protests
Part of the Black Lives Matter movement
and reactions to the killing of George Floyd
Crowd of protesters with signs, including one reading "I Can't Breathe"
Building partly destroyed, flames rising.
Police and National Guard in Philadelphia
Keep Formation.jpg
2020.05.31 Protesting the Murder of George Floyd, Washington, DC USA 152 35031 (49957236301) (cropped).jpg
A man stands on a burned out car on Thursday morning as fires burn behind him in the Lake St area of Minneapolis, Minnesota (49945886467).jpg
Minneapolis Uprising.jpg
Clockwise from top:
DateMay 26, 2020 – present
(1 month, 1 week and 2 days)
Location
Caused by
MethodsProtests, demonstrations, civil disobedience, civil resistance and riots
StatusOngoing
Deaths, injuries and arrests
Death(s)25+
Arrested14,000+
Damage$400–500 million in the Twin Cities area

The George Floyd protests are an ongoing series of protests and unrest which began in Minneapolis in the United States on May 26, 2020. The protests began as a response to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died during an arrest after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Department officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on.

The unrest began as local protests in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota before quickly spreading nationwide and in over 2,000 cities and towns in over 60 countries internationally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. While the majority of protests have been peaceful, demonstrations in some cities descended into riots, looting, and street skirmishes with police. Many police responded to protests with numerous instances of police brutality, including against reporters. At least 200 cities in the U.S. had imposed curfews by June 3, while at least more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. activated over 62,000 National Guard personnel due to the mass unrest. By June 30, at least 14,000 people had been arrested, including all four police officers involved in the arrest which led to Floyd's death.

The protests have led to on federal, state and municipal levels intended to combat police misconduct, systemic racism, qualified immunity and police brutality in the United States, while the Trump administration has drawn widespread criticism for its hardline, militarized response and aggressive rhetoric. The protests led to a wave of monument removals and name changes throughout the country and internationally. The protests occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Background

Police brutality in the United States

Frequent cases of police misconduct and fatal use of force by law enforcement officers in the U.S., particularly against African Americans, have long led the civil rights movement and other activists to protest against the lack of police accountability in incidents involving excessive force. Protests during the Civil Rights Movement were a response to police brutality. They included the Watts riots in 1965 which resulted in the deaths of 34 people, mostly African-Americans. The largest post civil rights movement protest in the 20th Century was the 1992 Los Angeles riots which were in response to the acquittal of the police officers responsible for excessive force used on an African American man named Rodney King.

In 2014 the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri drew local demonstrations of protest and death of Eric Garner in New York City (who, like George Floyd, repeatedly said "I can't breathe") resulted in numerous national protests. In 2015 the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. Several nationally publicized incidents occurred in Minnesota, including the 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis; the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights; and the 2017 shooting of Justine Damond. In 2016, Tony Timpa was killed by Dallas police officers in the same way as George Floyd. In March 2020, the shooting of Breonna Taylor by police executing a no knock warrant at her Kentucky apartment was also widely publicized.

COVID-19 pandemic

Measures taken against the COVID-19 pandemic, including closure of non-essential businesses and implementation of stay-at-home orders, had significant economic and social impact on many Americans as millions had lost their jobs and were made more economically vulnerable. Keith Ellison, Attorney General of Minnesota, said he was of the opinion that people "have been cooped up for two months, and so now they're in a different space and a different place. They're restless. Some of them have been unemployed, some of them don't have rent money, and they're angry, they're frustrated."

Killing of George Floyd

Tribute items left at site of death forming a makeshift memorial
Memorial at the site of Floyd's death

According to a police statement, on May 25, 2020, at 8:08 p.m. CDT, Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers responded to a 9-1-1 call regarding a "forgery in progress" on Chicago Avenue South in Powderhorn, Minneapolis. MPD Officers Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng arrived with their body cameras turned on. A store employee told officers that the man was in a nearby car. Officers approached the car and ordered George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who according to police "appeared to be under the influence," to exit the vehicle, at which point he "physically resisted." According to the MPD, officers "were able to get the suspect into handcuffs, and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance." Once Floyd was handcuffed, he and Officer Lane walked to the sidewalk. Floyd sat on the ground at Officer Lane's direction. In a short conversation, the officer asked Floyd for his name and identification, explaining that he was being arrested for passing counterfeit currency, and asked if he was "on anything." According to the report officers Kueng and Lane attempted to help Floyd to their squad car, but at 8:14 p.m., Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Soon, MPD Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao arrived in a separate squad car. The officers made several more failed attempts to get Floyd into the squad car.

Floyd, who was still handcuffed, went to the ground face down. Officer Kueng held Floyd's back and Lane held his legs. Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Floyd's head and neck. A Facebook Live livestream recorded by a bystander showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck. Floyd repeatedly tells Chauvin "Please" and "I can't breathe," while a bystander is heard telling the police officer, "You got him down. Let him breathe." After some time, a bystander points out that Floyd was bleeding from his nose while another bystander tells the police that Floyd is "not even resisting arrest right now," to which the police tell the bystanders that Floyd was "talking, he's fine." A bystander replies saying Floyd "ain't fine." A bystander then protests that the police were preventing Floyd from breathing, urging them to "get him off the ground ... You could have put him in the car by now. He's not resisting arrest or nothing." Floyd then goes silent and motionless. Chauvin does not remove his knee until an ambulance arrives. Emergency medical services put Floyd on a stretcher. Not only had Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for about seven minutes (including four minutes after Floyd stopped moving) but another video showed an additional two officers had also knelt on Floyd while another officer watched.

George Floyd mural at site of death with tribute items left in front of it
A mural of and memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 31

Although the police report stated that medical services were requested prior to the time Floyd was placed in handcuffs, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Emergency Medical Services arrived at the scene six minutes after getting the call. Medics were unable to detect a pulse, and Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy of Floyd was conducted on May 26, and the next day, the preliminary report by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office was published, stating "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation." Floyd's underlying health conditions included coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The initial report said that "[t]he combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death." The medical examiner further said Floyd was "high on fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamine at the time of his death."

On June 1, a private autopsy commissioned by the family of Floyd ruled the death a homicide and found that Floyd had died due to asphyxiation from sustained pressure, which conflicted with the original autopsy report done earlier that week. Shortly after, the official post-mortem declared Floyd's death a homicide. Video footage of Officer Derek Chauvin applying 8 minutes 15 seconds of sustained pressure to Floyd's neck thus killing Floyd generated global attention and raised questions about the use of force by law enforcement.

On May 26, Chauvin and the other three officers were fired. He was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; the former charge was later changed to second-degree murder.

Protests

World map showing sites of protests
Map of protests around the world with over 100 participants. Minneapolis-St. Paul is marked in red. (click for a dynamic version of the map)

United States protests

The day following Floyd's death, protests began in Minneapolis. In perceived response to both the police commissioner and police union leaders not holding Chauvin accountable for the murder of George Floyd, protesters and police began to clash on the streets. The unrest later escalated on May 27 as riots and looting began to take place, and on May 28 the third precinct police station in Minneapolis was burned down. At this time, the Minneapolis police and the union, as well as various city officials had not arrested Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, although Trump had ordered an expedited FBI probe into the matter. Protests also formed in other cities across the US, with demonstrations increasing each day. Protest actions were also reported in some US immigration detention centers and prisons. By June, protests had been held in all US states.

By June 3, at least 200 cities had imposed curfews, and at least 27 states and Washington, D.C. activated over 62,000 National Guard personnel in response to a majority of peaceful protests.

In Seattle, starting in early June, protesters occupied an area of several city blocks after the police vacated it, declaring it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where according to protesters "the police are forbidden, food is free and documentaries are screened at night". On June 10, President Trump challenged mayor Jenny Durkan and governor Jay Inslee to "take back your city," and implying, according to Durkan, the possibility of a military response.

On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum at Grand Army Plaza for the Liberation March, a silent protest in response to police brutality and violence against Black transgender women. Frustrated by the lack media coverage over the deaths of Nina Pop, who was stabbed in Sikeston, Missouri on May 3 and Tony McDade, who was shot by police in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27, artist and drag performer West Dakota and her mentor, drag queen Merrie Cherry, decided to organize a silent rally inspired by the 1917 NAACP Silent Parade. The march generated widespread media attention as one of the largest peaceful protests in modern New York City history.

On June 19, Juneteenth, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down ports on the West Coast in solidarity with protesters. An educator from the University of Washington said that the union has a history of protest and leftist politics since its founding: "[The ILWU] understood that division along the lines of race only benefited employers, because it weakened the efforts of workers to act together and to organize together. The UAW also asked members to join the protests by standing down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time a police officer held his knee to George Floyd's neck.

On June 17, in response to the protests, three different police reform plans, plans from the Republicans, the Democrats, and the White House, were unveiled aiming to curb police brutality and the use of violence by law enforcement. On June 25, NPR reported that the hopes for passage were doubtful because they were "short-circuited by a lack of bipartisan consensus on an ultimate plan [and] the issue is likely stalled, potentially until after the fall election."

As of June 20, protests were continuing in many cities and observations of Juneteenth gained a new awareness. Jon Batiste, bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, took part in a Juneteenth day of protests, marches, rallies and vigils to "celebrate, show solidarity, and fight for equal rights and treatment of Black people" in Brooklyn. Batiste also appeared in concert with Matt Whitaker in a performance presented in partnership with Sing For Hope, performed on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library.

International protests

Protests over Floyd's death quickly spread worldwide. Protests in Europe, Oceania, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere have rallied against what they perceived as racial discrimination and police brutality, with some protests aimed at United States embassies.

Over the weekend of June 7 and 8, surfers around the world held a "Paddle Out", a Hawaiian mourning tradition, for George Floyd and all the lives lost to police violence. Thousands observed the tradition in Honolulu, Hawaii, La Jolla, Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica, California, Galveston, Hackensack, New Jersey, Rockaway Beach, New York, Biarritz, France, Senegal and Australia.

Activation of non-local forces

Map of US showing National Guard deployments at of June 4
States that have activated the National Guard in response to the protests as of June 4
Minnesota National Guard in front of state capitol building in St. Paul on May 31
Minnesota National Guard standing guard behind police at the state capitol building in St. Paul, May 31

State

By June 9, governors in more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. had deployed the National Guard as a measure to quell the protests and riots, with over 24,000 troops being activated. Most state police officers across the United States were present in dozens of cities to back up local efforts to put an end to rioting.[citation needed]

Federal

As of June 5, 2,950 federal law enforcement personnel from a dozen agencies, including the Secret Service, Capital Police, Park Police, Customs and Border Protection, FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, Bureau of Prisons' Special Operations Response Team, DEA's Special Response Team, ATF, and Marshals Service's Special Operations Group, have been dispatched to assist local authorities, with most of them being garrisoned in D.C. The DEA's legal authority was specifically expanded by the Department of Justice beyond usual limits to include surveillance of protesters and the ability to arrest for non-drug related offenses. In response, Representatives Jerry Nadler and Karen Bass of the House Judiciary Committee denounced the move and requested a formal briefing from DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea.

An Indiana National Guardsman from the 76th Infantry Brigade deployed to traffic control points around the National Mall stops to talk to a D.C. resident.

United States President Donald Trump controversially threatened to deploy the U.S. military in response to the unrest. On June 3 he said "If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem." This would require invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, last used to quell the 1992 Los Angeles riots on May 1, 1992 by Executive Order 12804. Arkansas senator Tom Cotton also pushed for the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to be deployed to quell the unrest, calling protesters "Antifa terrorists." Cotton tweeted "No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters." However, many legal experts said this would violate the Department of Defense Law of War Manual, the ICRC, and Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. Cotton later said he was using "no quarter" in a colloquial sense, but Mark Zaid and Tom Nichols responded that the legal definition of the term is a war crime. Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton said federal troops should "lay down [their] arms" if deployed in the United States.

On June 4, federal agencies added about 1.7 mi (2.7 km) of fencing around the White House, Lafayette Square, and The Ellipse. Protesters used the fencing to post signs and artwork expressing their views. On June 11, the fencing was taken down, and some signs were collected by Smithsonian Museum curators from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, authorized to provide aerial surveillance "to assist law enforcement and humanitarian relief efforts" when requested, provided drone imagery during the protests.

Violence and controversies

A building burns during riots in Minneapolis on May 29

As of June 22, 2020, police had made 14,000 arrests in 49 cities since the protests began, with most arrests being locals charged with low-level offenses such as violating curfews or blocking roadways.

As of June 29, 2020, at least 25 people have died during the protests, with 22 due to gunshot wounds. There have been numerous reports and videos of aggressive police actions using physical force including "batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked." These incidents have provoked "growing concern that aggressive law enforcement tactics intended to impose order were instead inflaming tensions." The police responded that such tactics are necessary to prevent vandalism and arson, and that police officers themselves have been assaulted with thrown rocks and water bottles. Amnesty International issued a press release calling for the police to end excessive militarized responses to the protests. The Los Angeles Police Department announced that "homicides went up 250% and victims shot went up 56%" from May 31 to June 6. There have been accusations of various extremist groups using the cover of the protests to foment general unrest in the United States. According to CNN, "although interference in this way may be happening, federal and local officials have yet to provide evidence to the public."

There have been allegations of foreign influence stoking the unrest online, with the role of outside powers being additive rather than decisive as of May 31. Several analysts have said that there was a lack of evidence for foreign meddling – whether to spread disinformation or sow divisiveness – but suggest that the messaging and coverage from these countries has more so to do with global politics. George Floyd's family has denounced the violent protests.

At least 50 incidents of vehicles driving into crowds of protesters were recorded from May 27 to June 17, with four ruled accidental and five involving police officers. Since 2015, such actions have been encouraged against Black Lives Matter protests by "Run Them Over" and "All Lives Splatter" memes online, as well as items posted on Fox News and on social media by police officers.

Extremist participation

According to the Washington Post, those involved in looting and rioting were not ideologically organized, although many were motivated by anger towards police. Others took advantage of the occasion for personal gain. Expert analysis, media reporting and police records point to lone anarchists, extremist groups and radicals using the unrest to incite violence or attempt to spread their own messages. Some of those who identify as Antifa have reportedly been present at protests, though none have been cited as having been charged with any offenses.

According to the (IREHR), which mapped the appearance of various right-wing or far-right actors or extremist groups at rallies throughout the U.S., there had been 136 confirmed cases of right-wing participation at the protests by June 19, with many more unconfirmed. "Boogaloo Bois", Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, neo-Confederates, white nationalists, and an assortment of militias and vigilante groups reportedly had a presence at some protests, mostly in small towns and rural areas. Boogaloo Bois, whom are generally pro-gun, anti-authoritarian, and accelerationist, have reportedly been present at no less than 40 George Floyd protests, several reportedly linked with violence. Their continued presence online has caused Facebook and TikTok to take action against their violent and anti-government posts.

Use of social media

Protesters wearing COVID masks marching down a Baltimore street on May 30
A George Floyd protest in Baltimore on May 30

Many individuals and celebrities used social media to document the protests, spread information, promote donation sites, and post memorials to George Floyd. Following Floyd's death, a 15-year-old started a Change.org petition titled "Justice for George Floyd," demanding that all four police officers involved be charged. The petition was both the largest and fastest-growing in the site's history, reaching over 13 million signatures. During this time, multiple videos of the protests, looting, and riots were shared by journalists and protesters with many videos going viral. One such video was of a destroyed and smoky Minneapolis Target store that the poster claimed was damaged during the protests.

Documentation

A remix of Childish Gambino's song "This is America" and Post Malone's "Congratulations" was used heavily by protesters sharing footage of protests and police action on TikTok. Others used personal Twitter pages to post video documentation of the protests to highlight police and protesters actions, and points of the protests they felt would not be reported. One example was a viral photo that appears to show white women protesters standing with their arms locked between Louisville Metro Police Officers and protesters, with the caption describing the image and "This is love. This is what you do with your privilege."

Viral images of officers "taking a knee" with protesters and engaging in joint displays against police brutality, highlighted by hashtags such as #WalkWithUs, have circulated widely on social media. These acts have been identified by some cultural critics as copaganda, or "feel-good images" to boost public relations. Official social media accounts of police departments boosted positive images of collaboration. In some cases, these displays of solidarity, such as police kneeling, have been recognized as occurring moments before police teargassed crowds or inflicted violence on them. An article in The Fader characterized these acts as public relations tactics which were being undermined by police violence, "It feels like we go past the point of no return several times each day."

Celebrities

Cardi B used her social media to comment on the police brutality and looting during the protests stating; "Police brutality been going on even way before I was born, but it has been more visual ever since social media" and "How many peaceful protests have we seen? How many trending hashtags have we seen? People are tired. Now this [looting] is what people have to resort to."[relevant? ] Director Spike Lee posted a short film on his social media to support the protests and highlighted the deaths Floyd, Eric Garner and fictional character Radio Raheem from his film Do the Right Thing. The short uses footage of the deaths of all three men and opens with the words "Will history stop repeating itself?"

Activism

Protesters in Miami on June 6
Protesters in Miami on June 6

K-pop fan accounts hijacked rightwing and pro-Trump hashtags on social media, flooding trending hashtags with images and videos of their favorite artists. Users attempting to look up the hashtags #WhiteLivesMatter, #WhiteoutWednesday and #BlueLivesMatter were met with anti-racist messages and video clips of dancing idols. After the Dallas Police Department asked Twitter users to submit videos of protesters' illegal activity to its iWatch Dallas app, submissions of K-pop videos lead to the temporary removal of the app due to "technical difficulties."

On May 28, activist/hacktivist collective/movement Anonymous released a video to Facebook and the Minneapolis Police Department entitled "Anonymous Message To The Minneapolis Police Department", in which they state that they are going to seek revenge on the Minneapolis Police Department, and "expose their crimes to the world". According to Bloomberg, the video was initially posted on an unconfirmed Anonymous Facebook page. Before the video, the page posted content linked to UFOs and "China's plan to take over the world".

Misinformation

Official statements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz speculated that there was "an organized attempt to destabilize civil society," initially stating that as many as 80% of the individuals had possibly come from outside the state, and the mayor of St. Paul, Melvin Carter, said everyone arrested in St. Paul on May 29 was from out of state. However, jail records showed that the majority of those arrested were in-state. At a press conference later the same day, Carter explained that he had "shared… arrest data received in [his] morning police briefing which [he] later learned to be inaccurate."

Despite widespread eyewitness accounts and news reports of the use of tear gas to clear Lafayette Square for Trump to visit St. John's Church on June 1, Trump claimed that the allegations of tear gas usage were fake and his presidential campaign team demanded news outlets correct their claim.

Press statements

On June 6, the New York Post reported that a NYPD source said $2.4 million of Rolex watches had been looted during protests from a Soho Rolex store. However, the store in question was actually a Watches of Switzerland outlet that denied anything was stolen. Rolex confirmed that "no watches of any kind were stolen, as there weren't any on display in the store."

On the night of May 31, exterior lights on the north side the White House went dark as protesters were demonstrating outside. The Guardian mistakenly reported that "in normal times, they are only ever turned off when a president dies." A 2015 stock photograph of the White House, edited to show the lights turned off, was shared tens of thousands of times online, including by Hillary Clinton. While the photograph did not depict the building at the time of the protests, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley confirmed that the lights "go out at about 11 p.m. almost every night."

A June 12 article by The Seattle Times found that Fox News published a photograph of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone that had been digitally altered to include a man armed with an assault rifle. The Fox News website also used a photograph of a burning scene from the Minnesota protests to illustrate their articles on Seattle's protests. Fox removed the images and issued an apology, stating the digitally altered image was a collage that "did not clearly delineate" splicing.

Conspiracy theories

False stories about "Antifa buses" caused panic in rural counties throughout the country, despite there being no evidence they exist. The Associated Press has cataloged at least five separate rural counties where locals have warned of imminent attacks, although none of the rumors have been substantiated. As a result of the rumors, several people have been harassed, including a multi-racial family in Forks, Washington.

Some social media users claimed a man videoed breaking the windows of an AutoZone in Minneapolis on May 27 was an undercover Saint Paul Police officer; the Saint Paul Police Department denied these claims through a statement on Twitter. Additionally, SPPD released a montage of surveillance videos in an effort to prove that the officer who was accused of smashing the windows was actually 9 miles away when the incident occurred. Others spread images of damage from other protests or incidents, falsely attributing the damage to the George Floyd protests.

Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts associated with spreading a false claim about a communications blackout during protests in Washington, D.C., or a claim that authorities had blocked protesters from communicating on their smartphones. Also, some accounts shared a photo of a major fire burning near the Washington Monument, which was actually an image from a television show.

Impact and effects

Economic impact

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell noted on June 10 "historically high unemployment" prevalent during the prelude of the protests.

According to Fortune, the economic impact of the protests has exacerbated the 2020 coronavirus recession by sharply curtailing consumer confidence, straining local businesses, and overwhelming public infrastructure with large-scale property damage. A number of small businesses, already suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, were harmed by vandalism, property destruction, and looting. Curfews instated by local governments – in response to both the pandemic and protests – have also "restricted access to the downtown [areas]" to essential workers, lowering economic output. President Donald Trump, after announcing a drop in overall unemployment from 14.7% to 13.3% on June 5, stated that strong economic growth was "the greatest thing [for race relations]" and "George Floyd would have been proud [of the unemployment rate]". That same day reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the unemployment rate among African Americans (covering the first two weeks of protests) was up 0.1%, rising to 16.8%.

The U.S. stock market has remained unaffected or otherwise increased since the start of the protests on May 26. The protest's first fortnight coincided with a 38% rise in the stock market. A resurgence of coronavirus (facilitated by mass protests) could exacerbate the 2020 stock market crash according to economists at RBC. The protests have disrupted national supply chains over uncertainty regarding public safety, a resurgence of COVID-19, and consumer confidence. Several Fortune 500 retail companies, with large distribution networks, have scaled back deliveries and shuttered stores in high-impact areas. Mass demonstrations – of both peaceful and violent varieties – have been linked to diminished consumer confidence and demand stemming from the public health risks of group gatherings amid COVID-19.

A looted Cub Foods supermarket in Minneapolis on May 28

Large-scale property damage stemming from the protests has led to increased insurance claims, bankruptcies, and curbed economic activity among small businesses and state governments. Insurance claims arizing from property damage suffered in rioting is still being assessed, but is thought to be significant, perhaps record-breaking. The City of Minneapolis' Community Planning & Economic Development Department gave an early estimate of at least 220 buildings damaged and $55 million in property damage in the city from fires and vandalism, centered on the Lake Street area; city and state officials have requested state and federal aid to rebuild and repair. Later estimates projected damages to be upwards of $500 million across more than 500 buildings, making the unrest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area the second most destructive in United States history after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Among the losses was Minnehaha Commons, an under-construction, $30 million redevelopment project for 189 units of affordable housing, which was destroyed by fire after being torched on May 27. A community organization in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood said that between $10 million and $15 million in property damage (excluding losses from looting) was incurred over the weekend of May 29–31, mostly along storefronts along Peachtree Street and Phipps Plaza. The damage to downtown Chicago's central business district (near the Magnificent Mile) was reported to have sustained "millions of dollars in damage" according to Fortune.

Public financing and funding, particularly on the state level, has also been impacted by the protests. The coronavirus recession has eroded large parts of state budgets which have, subsequently, struggled to finance the police overtime pay, security costs, and infrastructure repairs related to the demonstrations. State governments have, since June, announced budget cuts to police departments as well as increased funding to other public safety measures. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on June 5 he will seek up to $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department budget.

On May 31, Walmart temporarily closed several hundred of its stores as a precaution. Amazon announced it would redirect some delivery routes and scale back others as a result of the widespread unrest.

Monuments and symbols

Vandalized monument of Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart in Richmond, Virginia on May 31, 2020.

Scrutiny of, discussion of removal, and removal of civic symbols or names relating to the Confederate States of America (frequently associated with segregation and the Jim Crow era in the United States) has regained steam as protests have continued. On June 4, 2020, Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond would be removed.

On June 5, making specific reference to events in Charlottesville in 2017, the United States Marine Corps banned the display of the Confederate Battle Flag at their installations. The United States Navy followed suit on June 9 at the direction of Michael M. Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations.

Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park. The Alabama Attorney General has filed suit against the city of Birmingham for violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.

A statue of America's first president, George Washington, has been torn down and American flag was burned by rioters in Portland, Oregon. Portland Public Schools was responding after protesters pulled down the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of Jefferson High School. Several protesters tore down the statue of the third President of the United States and wrote: “slave owner” and “George Floyd” in spray paint at its white marble base. PPS officials said they recognize that the act is part of a larger and very important national conversation. The statues targeted included a bust of Ulysses S. Grant and statue of Theodore Roosevelt. BLM activist Shaun King tweeted that statues, murals, and stained glass windows depicting a white Jesus should be removed.

Vandals defaced the statue of Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square and Queen Victoria's statue in Leeds. The Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the statue of General Casimir Pulaski were vandalized during the George Floyd protests in Washington, D.C. On June 7, the statue of Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into Bristol Harbour by demonstrators during the George Floyd protests in the United Kingdom. BLM activists in London are calling for the removal of 60 statues of historical figures like Prime Ministers Charles Grey and William Gladstone, Horatio Nelson, Sir Francis Drake, King Charles II of England, Oliver Cromwell and Christopher Columbus. Protesters in Belgium have vandalized statues of King Leopold II of Belgium.

In Washington, D.C., a statue of Indian freedom fighter and political ethicist Mahatma Gandhi was vandalized by unknown vandals on the intervening night of June 2 and 3. The incident prompted the Indian Embassy to register a complaint with law enforcement agencies. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, called the vandalism "a crime against humanity". In London, another statue of Mahatma Gandhi was vandalized by Black Lives Matter protesters along with the statue of Winston Churchill.

On June 12, the city council in Hamilton, New Zealand removed the statue of Captain John Hamilton, a British officer who was killed during the Māori Wars in 1864. A local Māori elder Taitimu Maipi, who had vandalized the statue in 2018, has also called for the city to be renamed Kirikiriroa. New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called the scrutiny of colonial-era memorials a "wave of idiocy".

On June 30, after the Mississippi Legislature obtained a two-thirds majority in both houses to suspend rules in order to pass a bill addressing the Confederate Battle Flag on the Mississippi state flag, Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill that relinquished the state flag, mandated its removal from public premises within 15 days, and established a commission to proposed a new flag design that excluded the Confederate Battle Flag and included the motto "In God We Trust". The flag contained the infamous Confederate symbol in the canton (upper left corner) of the flag, and was the last U.S. state flag to do so.

Changes to police policies

St. Paul police during riots on May 28
"Defund the Police," a phrase popularized by BLM during the George Floyd protests
Police during riots in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 28 (top);
"Defund the Police," a phrase popularized by BLM during the George Floyd protests (bottom)

In the wake of Floyd's killing, state and local governments evaluated their police department policies, and the response to protests, for themselves. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for new police crowd control procedures for the state, and the banning of the police use of carotid chokeholds, which starve the brain of oxygen. The Minneapolis police department banned police from using chokeholds; Denver's police department also banned the use of chokeholds without exception, and also established new reporting requirements whenever a police officer holds a person at gunpoint.

In June 2020, Democrats in Congress introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a police reform and accountability bill that contains measures to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. The impetus for the bill were the killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans at the hands of police. It passed the House of Representatives one month after Floyd's killing, 236 to 181, with support from Democrats and three Republicans. A Republican reform bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate by all but two Democrats; neither party negotiated the contents of the bill with the other. Speaker Nancy Pelosi summarized Democratic opposition to the Senate bill: "it's not a question that it didn't go far enough; it didn't go anywhere".

On June 16, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform that incentivized departments to recruit from communities they patrol, encourage more limited use of deadly force, and prioritize using social workers and mental health professionals for nonviolent calls. The order also created a national database of police officers with a history of using excessive force.

Push to abolish police

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council — a veto-proof majority — including Jeremiah Ellison, pledged on June 7 to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, despite opposition from Mayor Frey. U.S. representative Ilhan Omar stated, “the Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform. It's time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis." Despite pledges by city council members to the end the Minneapolis Police Department, a proposed amendment to the Minneapolis city charter which was approved by the Minneapolis City Council on June 26 would only rename the police department and change its structure if approved by voters.

D.C. statehood

In response to the protests, the United States House of Representatives on June 26 passed a bill 232–180 along party lines to give statehood to most of the District of Columbia. The change is opposed by President Trump and most Republicans, and was not expected to pass the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the situation of taxation without representation in Congress a "grave injustice", although the district does vote in presidential elections under the Twenty-Third Amendment.

Changes in entertainment

Television and movies

In the media industry, the protests have spurred scrutiny for cop shows and led to the cancellation of popular television shows referred to by critics as copaganda. With long-standing criticism that it presented an unbalanced view of law enforcement in favor of police, encouraged police to engage in more dramatic behavior for the camera, and degraded suspects who had not yet been convicted of any crime, the Paramount Network canceled the 33rd season of the TV show Cops and pulled it from broadcast. The television network A&E canceled a similar show, Live PD, which was also found to have destroyed footage documenting the police killing of Javier Ambler in Austin, Texas, in 2019. The streaming service HBO Max temporarily pulled the film Gone with the Wind until video that explains and condemns the film's racist depictions could be produced to accompany it. In the United Kingdom, the BBC pulled the famed "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers from its UKTV streaming service, but later reinstated it after criticism from series star John Cleese. The episode, which included racial slurs about the West Indies cricket team, now features a disclaimer at the beginning warning of "offensive content and language". The BBC also removed the Little Britain series and its spinoff Come Fly with Me from the iPlayer and BritBox services as well as Netflix for its use of blackface.

The week of June 24, 2020, several animated series that had black, mixed or non-white characters voiced by white actors, including Big Mouth, Central Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, announced those characters would be recast with people of color. That same week, episodes of 30 Rock, The Office, Community, The Golden Girls, and Peep Show that involved characters using blackface were either removed or edited from syndication and streaming services.

In light of the protests, Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Terry Crews said that the first four episodes of the show's eighth season had to be rewritten.

Theme parks

Popular Disney amusement ride Splash Mountain will be rethemed into The Princess and the Frog-themed ride. Despite Disney stating the plan was on the works since 2019, fans believed the retheming was responding to protests as the current attraction was based on the movie Song of the South, a controversial film for its depiction of African-Americans. The rethemed attraction would provide a better representation of African-Americans as the protagonist Princess Tiana is the first black Disney Princess.

Social media

Facebook's decision not to remove or label President Trump's tweet of "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" prompted complaints from Facebook employees that political figures were getting a special exemption from the site's content policies. Actions included internal petition, questioning the CEO at an employee town hall, some resignations, and an employee walkout.

Firearms

Background checks for legally purchased firearms reached record highs in May with year-on-year numbers up 80.2%.

Firearms retailers surveyed by National Shooting Sports Foundation in May estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers, 40% of those first-time gun buyers were women, a relatively high rate for that demographic group. Though gun sales have been up across the country, a rise in first-time gun buyers in left-leaning states like California have helped fuel the national uptick in firearms and ammunition purchases.

The last days of May and first week of June, there were more than 90 attempted or successful burglaries of gun stores, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. More than 1,000 guns were stolen in that window of time. On May 31 the BATF reported 29 separate burglaries targeting licensed firearm retailers.

Impact on COVID-19 transmission

Masked protesters in Philadelphia on June 2

Concerns by officials

The mass protests occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic and officials and experts warned they could facilitate an accelerated or rebounding spread of COVID-19. A number of current and former public health officials expressed concerns that mass protests would lead to a spike in COVID-19 clusters, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and former Trump administration FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. These concerns were echoed by a number of elected officials, including Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Abroad, Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt. and British Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to avoid mass gatherings. Martin Seychell, a health official at the EU Commission, said that mass events could be a major route of transmission like for any infectious respiratory disease and that the likelihood and size of a second wave would depend on the effective maintaining of social distancing measures and other factors. Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Nottingham University, England stated there is "clear evidence that banning mass gatherings was one of the most effective and important parts of the lockdowns across European countries."

A number of officials, including Cuomo, Bottoms, and Minnesota health officials, recommended that anyone who attended a demonstration receive COVID-19 testing.

Spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Kristen Nordlund said "it's too early to know what, if any, effect these events will have on the nation's federal COVID-19 response". Multiple governors attended street protests even though they appeared to violate their own orders to ensure social distancing. On June 10, one scientist estimated that large ongoing protests may account for a 3% to 6% increase above the nation's total new daily infections, but noted that it is hard to estimate since many establishments such as hair salons, restaurants and Las Vegas casinos had begun to open that could also fuel more infections.

Factors

In June 2020 the CDC released the "Considerations for Events and Gatherings" which assesses large gatherings where it is difficult for people to stay at least six feet apart, and where attendees travel from outside the local area as "highest risk".

Masks and distancing

A protester in Vancouver, Canada, with "Please give me space. I am diabetic and more [susceptible] to COVID-19" written on their shirt.

Speaking about public health implications of demonstrations, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that "Masks can help, but it’s masks plus physical separation". Ashish Jha, Director of the Global Health Institute at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, "The question is: how do we do protesting safely? I think masks are a critical part of it." Theodore Long, a doctor affiliated with New York's contact tracing strategy, echoed Jha's point, and advocated "proper hand hygiene and to the extent possible, socially distance". Many participants of the protests with potentially unclear current and prior-infection-status – including some police officers – did not wear a face mask at all times, or adhere to other public safety guidelines.

George Floyd's family encouraged those attending the official public memorial to wear masks and gloves, as did multiple officials, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney who asked demonstrators to follow social distancing guidelines, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who asked protesters to wear masks, and Minnesota's governor who warned that "too many" protesters were not applying physical person-to-person distances or wearing masks.

Overcrowded jails

Hundreds of people arrested by police in New York City – including both peaceful demonstrators and persons accused of violence – were detained in overcrowded, sometimes unsanitary holding cells, sometimes without face masks, prompting concerns over jail-spread COVID-19 cases. The Legal Aid Society sued the New York City Police Department, accusing it of detaining people for extended periods (up to three days) in violation of New York state law requiring that arrests receive arraignments within 24 hours. The department acknowledged that "it was common for up to two dozen people to be held for hours on buses before being taken to be booked" due to large backlogs and paperwork delays and that social distancing was impossible within jails, but a state trial court denied Legal Aid's request, given the "crisis within a crisis".

Other factors

The use of tear gas may increase the spread of the virus due to coughing and lung damage. Smoke and pepper spray may also increase its spread. Shouting and speaking loudly, which are common to both violent and non-violent protests, may also cause infections at distances greater than 6 feet (1.8 m). Research has found that the share of infections due to a single infected person in a choir can be almost 90%, and that just a few contagious people can infect hundreds of susceptible people around them. Outdoor events may have a substantially lower risk of spreading the disease than indoor ones, and the "transient" moments of people moving around may be less-hazardous than longer durations of proximity.

Political and epidemiological debate

Over 1,200 medical staff signed a letter criticizing what they called "emerging narratives that seemed to malign demonstrations as risky for the public health because of Covid-19." The letter writers wrote: "Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy. However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders." Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo wrote that. "In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus." Dr. Tom Frieden, the former CDC director, said that if trust in government "is undermined by violent policing, or it's undermined by ham-handed public health actions that don't respect communities, that's going to have a negative impact on our ability to fight disease."

Thomas Chatterton Williams contended that "the public health narrative around coronavirus ... reversed itself overnight" and that this seemed "an awful lot like … politicizing science." Conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg criticized Frieden in response, writing, "You know what erodes public trust in people like Frieden? When they say that you're a fool or monster who will get people killed for wanting to go to church or keep your business open but you're a hero when you join a protest they approve of."

Medical and legal

Most protesters in Minneapolis interviewed by Wired magazine said they "participated with full knowledge of the health risks, and believe police brutality to be an even more urgent existential threat".

While expressing disappointment at the flouting of social distancing rules, Police Minister Stuart Nash indicated that New Zealand Police were not seeking to prosecute protest organisers and participants. Laws temporarily prohibiting physical mass-gatherings of more than a limited number of people – or in some cases the violations of physical distancing laws during such events – for the protection of public health have been broken in several countries and cities including in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New York City, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and France.[additional citation(s) needed]

Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and researcher at Brown University called for people to examine the racial disparities of the COVID-19 spread and their relation to the protests.

Preliminary results

Researchers reported that the protests did not appear to be driving an increase in coronavirus transmission. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research issued in June 2020, analyzed cell phone tracking data in 315 of the largest U.S. cities (281 with demonstrations and 34 without demonstrations) and CDC coronavirus tracking data and found "no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset." The study authors found "no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests, and even modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline." Epidemiologists and other researchers suggested the protests had a relatively low impact on COVID-19 transmission because the protests took place outdoors where the virus is less likely to spread as compared to indoors; because many protesters wore masks; and because persons who demonstrated made up a small portion of the overall U.S. population (about 6% of adults).

Authorities did not see increases in coronavirus cases as a result of the protests in New York City, or in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington. Minnesota launched an effort to test people who demonstrated, and found that 1.5% tested positive. Similarly in Massachusetts, fewer than 3% of tested positive. (On June 17 and 18, Massachusetts opened 52 pop-up locations for protesters to get free COVID-19 testing and reported 2.5% tested positive, "reasonably consistent" with the general population testing positive at 1.9%. In King County, Washington (which includes Seattle, the major center of demonstrations in Washington state), less than 5% of 1,008 total positive cases were traced by health investigators to persons who attended a protest. By contrast, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health asserted on June 22 that it was "highly likely" that a surge in cases is connected to the protests, as well as the lifting of the county stay-at-home order.

Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University found that, of three modeled scenarios with mask-wearing and open air suppressing transmission, "the most optimistic scenario turned out to be most accurate." However, Shaman and other researchers and officials caution that protesters are disproportionately young, and less likely to become ill, and there is significant uncertainty about the effect of various factors. While many states in the U.S. saw record highs of new cases, these upticks are thought to be attributed to reopenings of workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other businesses.

In June, a large number of Houston Police Department officers tested positive for the virus or were quarantined after being exposed; police chief Art Acevedo said that none of the officers were seriously ill, and suggested that business reopenings in Texas were more likely the cause of the spread among officers than protest duty, saying "We opened up the state very quickly, especially bars and, you know, I can't control what people do off duty." Members of the D.C. National Guard have also tested positive for COVID-19 after protests.

Reactions

Many companies, organizations, countries, and celebrities sent messages of concern about the George Floyd killing, police brutality, or racism, both in the United States and in other countries. Some channels blacked out regular programming for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in solidarity. Some celebrities and companies made donations to racial justice organizations. President Donald Trump demanded that governors "dominate" protesters, and tweeted "when the looting starts, the shooting starts", a sentiment which Twitter marked as inciting violence. Trump later said he was not advocating violence, noting that the tweet could be read as either a threat or a statement of fact and that he intended for it to be read as "a combination of both". Trump controversially deployed various federal law enforcement agencies, the District of Columbia National Guard, and the Arlington County Police Department to clear Lafeyette Square and surrounding streets for a photo-op at St. John's Church. Some politicians participated in the protests, and others called for protesters to refrain from violence.

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. See section for more details and citations.
  2. See Donald Trump photo op at St. John's Church § Tear gas use and denial for more information on the veracity of this claim.

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Further reading

Arrangement is chronological.

External links