Photos by Chojnowski, Morales and Sousie. Article by Chojnowski and Sousie.
On the afternoon of May 25, an unarmed 46-year-old black man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Three officers accompanying Chauvin stood by and watched as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.”
A video recording of the incident went viral, sparking protests that have gone on to become the most widespread civil rights movement in world history. People around the world have mobilized to march in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, marking a new era in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism.
Dollars & Sense reporters Catherine Chojnowski, Andrea Blanco Morales, and Kenneth Sousie documented some of the many #JusticeForGeorge protests that have taken place across New York City.
Barclays Center, Brooklyn. Monday, June 1, 2020.
This demonstration outside of the Barclays Center, which has become a landmark location in the #JusticeforGeorge movement, was followed by a city-wide curfew order that lasted from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for five days.
As the outrage spread nationwide, so-called “white allies” joined the protests and marched in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Two protestors embrace in a public display of peace, while others take a knee for the victims: The ones who have been named, and the ones who haven’t.
Many protestors have blamed the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for inciting violence, with video evidence of police officers shoving protesters and driving through crowds circulating widely on social media.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the police officers who rammed protesters with their vehicle. “I’ve seen that video and obviously heard about many other incidents,” he said. “It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle… I wish the officers hadn’t done that, but they didn’t start the situation.”
“Cops kill a Negro, he’s a hero” is a slogan derived from a lyric in Tupac Shakur’s song “Changes,” which talks about the mistreatment of Black Americans by the police.
Law enforcement equipped with riot gear begin to circle Barclays Center. The NYPD also dispatched a counterterrorism unit.
The protests have sparked public scrutiny of the police department’s budget, which exceeds the funding of the city’s healthcare system. Police have full access to riot gear, weapons and resources while hospitals have struggled to equip their personnel with protective gear during a pandemic.
“Their names,” a protester says, holding a sign listing the names of 130 people who have been killed by the police. “Not all of them, of course.”
Protesters at Barclays Center listen to a man playing “All Things Must Pass” on
“Raise your fists.”
A woman who has been protesting racial inequality for over 19 years leads a prayer at Barclays Center. After losing her voice to the prior chanting, her words still resonate in the quiet audience.
Candlelight Vigil for George Floyd: Astoria Park, Queens. Monday, June 1, 2020.
Hundreds of protesters fill Astoria Park during a candlelight vigil for George Floyd. In the sign above, the hashtag reads “REPEAL50A,” referring to a New York State law that hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public. Calls for the law to be repealed went viral and on June 12, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill repealing the law. Police misconduct records will become publicly available.
Near a makeshift memorial, the Black Lives Matter organizers lead chants for Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician who was killed during a no-knock raid in Louisville, KY on March 13, 2020. On June 11th, the Louisville council passed “Breonna’s Law” banning no-knock warrants. Taylor, like Floyd, was black and unarmed; the three police officers who shot her were looking for men who were already in police custody. None have been arrested.
At dusk, the voices calling out speeches, names and chants fall silent. Hundreds of hands hold up lights to mark the deaths of Floyd, Taylor and countless others who have died because of police brutality.
Vigil for George Floyd: McCarren Park, Brooklyn. Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
Beginning the Friday following Floyd’s death, vigils have been held daily at 7 p.m. in McCarren Park. The vigils were organized by local residents associated with the North Brooklyn Mutual Aid Fund. Each vigil begins with a small group of speakers, followed by 30 minutes of silence.
Demonstrators have continued to gather for the vigil daily, rain or shine. Crowds mostly gather in one of the two fields in the parks, along with the adjacent baseball fields. Abiding by social distancing guidelines, taking mutual safety into account, crowds have filled the entire park.
Demonstrators bring various hand-made signs to the vigils.
George Floyd Memorial Brooklyn Bridge March: Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn. Thursday, June 4, 2020.
On a 95-degree afternoon, people of vastly diverse ethnicities packed Cadman Plaza Park for the official NYC George Floyd Memorial Service. The service was led by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Kevin Livingston of the nonprofit 100 Suits. Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, was in attendance. “You are not alone!” the crowd chanted.
Mindful of the ongoing pandemic, protesters complied with safety guidelines, wearing masks and gloves and attempting to maintain distance between other protesters when possible. Volunteers also circled the crowds, providing face masks and gloves to those who had not brought their own.
Colin Kaepernick famously began kneeling during the national anthem in a protest against police brutality towards minorities in the United States. Kaepernick became a polarizing and controversial figure in the American zeitgeist. Now, thousands of Americans have adapted “taking a knee” as a symbol of peaceful protest against police brutality, especially during the #JusticeForGeorge movement.
People in the crowd raised both fists and peace signs in the air, symbolizing “Peace on the left” and “Justice on the right.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio came out to address the audience but was overpowered by boos and calls for his resignation. In addition to a laundry list of actions spanning his tenure as NYC mayor, de Blasio has been heavily criticized for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the protests. The volume of the audience drowned out the volume of de Blasio’s microphone. After the crowd turned their backs on him, de Blasio cut his speech short and walked off stage.
Civil rights leaders at the memorial commented positively on the multi-ethnic support shown during this movement. One speaker called the audience, comprised of a wide difference in skin tones, the “gorgeous American mosaic.”
“Don’t confuse non-violence with not disrupting the status quo that exists. We must always comfort the afflicted, but in order to get justice we must afflict the comfortable,” Williams said before the crowd departed the memorial to march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The memorial service and march not only paid homage to George Floyd, but to other unarmed black people who have died at the hands of the police, namely Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, and Amadou Diallo. Diallo was shot 41 times in his home by four plainclothes police officers in 1999 after reaching for his wallet to identify himself. All officers were found not guilty of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment.
In George Floyd’s last breaths, he called for his mother.
Attorney General Letitia James addressed the audience by saying “Change is coming. The cries for justice are being heard all across the nation.”