by Mateo Requejo-Tejada
Graphic by Jane Wilson
Protests against police brutality have been going on for a long time, but never have they been so widespread to the point that people were chanting the name of a murdered African American in all 50 states and across the world. That all changed once the world saw a black man by the name of George Floyd being murdered with a knee to his neck for eight minutes and forty seconds. Soon people across the globe took to the streets to protest police brutality and call for reform.
As horrific as George Floyd’s death was to watch, this wasn’t the first time that the world saw a black man murdered on camera by an unqualified and/or undertrained officer. In 2016 a man was shot 7 times in front of his girlfriend and her 4 year-old daughter; his name was Philando Castile. Castile was one of many black men killed by police during the summer of 2016, and while there was national outrage and protests calling for change, they were not as widespread as they are now. What makes the George Floyd video different from the others is that the entire world is stuck at home with no distractions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
If the Coronavirus had not forced the country to go into lockdown then Black Lives Matter protests would not have grown as massive as they have now. Maneesh Arora, a political science professor with The Washington Post, conducted a survey to see if those that have been hurt financially by Covid are more likely to attend a BLM protest. He found that, “respondents who reported that they had been hurt financially by the pandemic were…substantially more likely to report that they had attended a protest and posted positively about the protests or BLM.”
In the past, societies, after being plagued with disease for a long time, became subject to incredible societal change. “Sometimes there’s a shift in power dynamics between those at the top and bottom of society…not only economically but politically as well,” Speir said. “A classic example is the Black Death which depopulated Europe, …[until]… peasants were able to demand a larger share of societal wealth, which may have then led to demands for greater political voice.” The same kind of change in power dynamics seen among peasants and women because of the black plague, can be seen now as people march down streets protesting police brutality during this pandemic.
As people are stuck at home with family, they have to deal with the stress of financial issues and an uncertain future. All these factors have provided the perfect climate for a renewed interest in BLM, as well as guarantee an explosive reaction when a video was shared across all social media of George Floyd begging for his life. Shortly after this, news spread of a young woman who was killed by police while sleeping in her own home, and since then millions have taken to the streets and chanted the name “Breonna Taylor.”