For the last six days, people have taken to the streets to protest police brutality in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died last week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The public response was fast and widespread. Protests started in Minneapolis and then quickly spread across the country, as people marched not just for Floyd but for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey and Tony McDade, too. Law enforcement cracked down hard, spurred on by President Donald Trump, who said it’s imperative to stop the violence and property damage that has accompanied some of the demonstrations.
Peaceful protesters are in a dangerous position. But they have an urgent mission, and the protests have continued in spite of the crackdowns.
Along with marches and rallies, here are specific tactics protesters are using to highlight police violence and racism, particularly against Black people.
People across the country are kneeling as both a form of peaceful protest and an homage to the movement led by Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kneeling is also a somber symbol of the way that Floyd was killed ― by a white officer kneeling on his throat.
Several viral videos and photos have also shown police officers kneeling with protesters ― though these short acts of solidarity have often been followed up with tear-gassing of protesters or other acts of aggression.
White People To The Front
Protest organizers have frequently called on white allies to go to the front in a protest ― not to center white people in a movement for Black lives, but because police tend not to react as violently to white people.
“It’s not just to show solidarity, it’s a line of protection,” said Tanya Faison, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter.
“A lot of times, guns will be drawn [by police] and when a white person gets in front of the Black person, the gun goes down,” she said.
It’s crucial, though, that white allies not take it upon themselves to stand front and center in these protests.
“White folks shouldn’t take on when they do it,” Faison said. “It should happen when Black folks say, ‘Hey, white people to the front.’”
Prayer Ceremonies And Vigils
Floyd’s brother Terrence visited the site of his death on Monday and led a vigil with Rev. Kevin McCall of Brooklyn. Candlelight vigils were also held in Texas and Southern California over the weekend.
The Native American community in Minneapolis performed a jingle dress healing ceremony at the site of Floyd’s death.
“Jingle Dress dancing holds a spiritual power for Indian people because of its association with healing,” Brenda J. Child, professor of American studies and American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota, wrote in The New York Times last week.
“When many women dance together in unison, the effect is amplified, becoming a healing reverberation,” she wrote.
In Sacramento, California, on Monday evening, the Anti-Police Terror Project hosted a prayer gathering for families impacted by police brutality. Led by the local Native American community and inspired by the jingle dress ceremony in Minneapolis, the event centered around prayer and healing, with dancing, singing and an open mic for community members to share their righteous anger and grief. Attendees brought flowers, signs, candles and other offerings to show their support.