George Floyd was a black man who was killed by police after being arrested on May 25 for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill in a deli. He was handcuffed by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who pinned him down with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he became unresponsive.
Since then, his death has prompted initially peaceful protests around the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, which have escalated into stealing, looting, and burning buildings, the New York Times reports.
Many protestors emphasize that they are not seeking physical confrontation, but rather calling for change.
“I’m not here to fight someone, I’m here to fight a system,” Eldon Gillet, 40, who was on the streets in Brooklyn, told the New York Times.
According to the Washington Post, the rallies have quickly spread to metropolitan areas across rural and urban America as demonstrators waved “I can’t breathe” signs — which became a slogan of protest following the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and also echoes some of the last words that the dying George Floyd gasped.
Students have taken the issue into their own hands as well, retweeting countless hashtags and encouraging their peers to sign petitions or donate to funds. Many other cases of systematic police brutality against African Americans have also surfaced including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and Tony McDade.
While some choose to spread awareness by informing their followers on social media platforms, others warn against simply engaging in performative activism.
“I recently got tagged in one of the chain posts and I didn’t continue it even though I felt kind of pressures to do so,” Northwood High School freshman Vivian Guo said. “I [understand] that it spreads awareness but I don’t think it accomplishes much.”
She mentioned how one of her favorite actors, Will Smith, noted that “racism hasn’t gotten worse, it’s just now being televised.”
However, Guo is glad that our generation is able to be apart of the change and believes telling people to sign petitions is a feasible way to make every voice heard.