“I Can’t Breathe”: BLM and the People, Protests, and Police

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Caitlynn Kelley

A group of people protest at Jess Ranch in Apple Valley. There has protests in the High Desert, in Apple Valley and Victorville respectively, against police brutality and in remembrance of George Floyd. In Jess Ranch, there was a clash between two Hispanic girls and two men who tried to hit them with his car.

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of current and former police officers, among many others, have sparked outrage. The killings have renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests have erupted nationally and internationally against police brutality. Floyd’s death on May 25th was the catalyst for the protests, mainly made up of young and racially diverse people, that have occured since late May and mid-June. The peaceful protests have since been accompanied by conflict, including debates over the rioting and looting that have followed and their overall message.

 

Protests, Riots, and Looting

A Walmart in Apple Valley is shown boarded up. There was looting and rioting that have happened at one of the protests in Victorville. A large group of people arrived when the original protesters left. There was a plan to loot the Walmart nearby, but that did not happen due to police presence. (Caitlynn Kelley)

George Floyd protests have taken place in Victorville and Apple Valley. A protest next to the Bear Valley overpass happened on May 31, 2020. One of the protest organizers voiced how people of different races should come together to fight injustice. In the article about the protest, it talks about various black people who have been killed. The ones mentioned are Nathaniel Pickett, Diante Yarber, and Lajuana Phillips. Ruben Escudero, who is of latin descent, was also mentioned in the article as being viciously attacked by police officers. In Jess Ranch on June 3, 2020, hundreds of people were protesting in the name of George Floyd. However, men inside a jeep were trying to hit two hispanic girls who were inside their cars. When they got out of the car, they knocked a sign out of one of their hands. One of the men took out a gun and the other one took out a knife. No charges were filed against the men. 

The San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon gave out his report about the death of George Floyd and the protests on Twitter on June 3, 2020. He came out with his report later than other sheriffs in other neighboring counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Kern, etc). He stated how horrified he was by the police officers’ actions in Minnesota and that their crimes have discredited the police. McMahon supports the peaceful protests, but states that the message that they are fighting for is lost when violence and looting starts. 

The US is not the only country that has shown support for Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Footage from different European countries such as France, England, and Germany show that citizens there are also taking a stand against police brutality. Despite the coronavirus ban in France (there cannot be groups of more than ten people in public), there were thousands protesting the death of George Floyd and Adama Traoré. Traoré was a black man who died in custody of the French police in 2016. Many French citizens of African descent say that they are unfairly searched by the police. The protests show the tension between the French police and the black communities in France’s suburbs. 

Recently graduated student Miah Alamillo states what she thinks about the international reaction to Floyd’s death and against police brutality, “It warms my heart to see people from other countries take a stand with the American people and the black people of America to end police brutality and racism. It’s truly a beautiful sight to see humanity blossom in the hearts of people all around the world. It is just tragic that it took the death of an innocent black man to see the flaws of our country brought into the light. Knowing the world stands with us in the fight for equality under the law is absolutely incredible.”

Rioting and looting have been a major point of controversy for the movement since the protests started. A protest in Victorville was at first peaceful, but then became violent towards the nighttime when a larger group that was not part of the original group of protestors showed up. They started to cause chaos by throwing rocks at the police, which made the police officers shoot rubber bullets at them. Looters planned to raid the nearby Walmart, but due to police presence they backed off. A black owned small business on 7th Street, Curt’s Pharmacy, was looted. In New York City, Desiree Barnes made a powerful speech towards those who were looting in her neighborhood. She decried the looting and pointed out how they made buses not come to her neighborhood and that they are vandalizing immigrant owned businesses. In Indianapolis, after many protesters left, a group of one-hundred people started blocking the roads and business’s windows were smashed. Fires were set in trash cans and a shooting happened, which took a man’s life. 

Alamillo discusses the differences between rioting and looting, “I believe looting and rioting are two completely different things. Looting are acts of thieves looking just to steal the items they cannot possess- it is not charged by any emotion other than greed. Rioting on the other hand is a language spoken by people who are tired and angry of speaking only to be ignored. Action was taken when words did not work and quite frankly riots have brought great change to this country. For example, the Stonewall Riots gave people of the LGBTQ+ community more rights. We must not confuse looters for protestors, protestors have a cause looters do not. My heart goes out to the communities and businesses who have been looted, but this was not the fault of the protestors.”

Recently graduated student Erika Davis believes that the looting is unnecessary. “Why are people stealing TVs and a lot of technology for the Black Lives Matter movement? They’re associating crime with a PEACEFUL movement. On the rioting….I can see sides good and bad, but overall I don’t like the rioting nor support it because of the way I saw past leaders protest. The rioting and looting is scaring kids as well as adults. I think protesting is starting to get a negative connotation because of this.”

High Desert resident Jacqueline Bond, a Latina, gives her opinion on why the looting started, “I think the looting has to do with outrage… I think people took advantage of a situation and took it out on the communities not realizing that not all of the community is against them. It is somewhat like a personal way of getting retribution.”

Controlling the Crowds

President Trump has decried the looting and rioting that is happening in the country, although he has said he does support the peaceful protests. He has described the death of George Floyd as ‘tragic’ and has said that it should have never have happened in the first place. 

In response to the riots and looting, Trump has stated that he was going to deploy the US army to stop them if states did not use all of their national guardsmen. Although the National Guard is under the state’s governor’s authority, the President can put the National Guard under his orders. Tom Nolan, an associate professor for Criminal Justice at Boston University, states that the National Guard does not have the proper experience in dealing with protestors. President Trump states that he has the right to deploy US troops under the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows for the US President to install troops in states to help restore tranquility during times of distress. There has been discussion that US governors should ask the federal government for troops instead. Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker has also said that forcibly bringing in US troops is unnecessary.  

President Trump stated in a tweet,  “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter later cited this tweet as inherently violent which makes it against community guidelines. It is noted that segregationist George Wallace has said the exact same thing in one of his campaigns. It was also said by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who was known for his prejudice against black communities. Trump later clarified his tweet, saying that he does not know the origins of the phrase and that it commonly happens when looting starts. 

Regarding Trump’s tweet and overall response, Davis states, “Trump is ignorant in so many ways. He’s knowingly adding fuel to the fire. I think that’s what started the riots: his comments. He is being praised and supported for his dumb actions, but they will eventually catch up to him. The decline of America has gone up significantly since he’s been in office.”

Curfews have been enacted in many cities across the US to make sure that people are safe and to decrease the chance of protests escalating into violent ones. Some of the cities that have enacted curfews are Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and so on. In the High Desert, only the cities of Barstow and Adelanto have declared a national emergency. The curfews for Barstow and Adelanto go from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. On June 3rd, in New York City, many protestors decided to break curfew. They were arrested by the police. 

Davis believes the curfews could have prevented some crimes. She explains, “…I think in some ways the curfew is effective, but only if people want to follow and abide by it. The only way for us to get better is to suck it up and follow the rules for our safety.”

Alamillo states why she believes the curfews are not helpful, “I personally don’t think that the curfews are effective given that protestors who are calling for change have clearly run out of time and patience. Change needs to happen and they are not running on the clock of law enforcement.”

I personally don’t think that the curfews are effective given that protestors who are calling for change have clearly run out of time and patience. Change needs to happen and they are not running on the clock of law enforcement.”

— Miah Alamillo

Bond does not believe that the curfews were effective because, “violence happens at any time of day. I think it was an attempt to interfere with peaceful protests.”

There has been controversy among the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on peaceful protestors at Washington D.C. to make way for President Trump to go to St. John’s Episcopal Church to have a photo op (a planned appearance for a prominent person to take photos for publicity). Press Secretary McEnany compared the photo op of Trump holding the Bible to Winston Churchill’s inspection of bombing damage and she denied that tear gas was used to clear a path for President Trump. Park City Police have denied that they used tear gas, and claimed that they used pepper balls and smoke canisters instead. Pepper balls and tear gas are both riot agents, which are used by law enforcement officials to control crowds. Both pepper balls and tear gas create similar reactions (coughing, vomiting, and tearing).

The Secret Service and the D.C. National Guard were also involved and they have not disclosed what they used on the protesters. President Trump has denied the use of tear gas on the protestors. 

With regards to the Trump tweet and the photo op, Alamillo says, “It is an absolute shame that we have a man who is racist, homophobic and countless other words I can use for that man… Tear gas is illegal to use during times of war against the enemy, but not illegal to use on peaceful protestors. Arming policemen with such a weapon is atrocious. Rubber bullets are meant to be aimed at the ground, fired, and then let ricochet off of objects, but the police department shoots them directly into the faces and bodies of people peacefully protesting. The photo op of him in front of the church which he does not seem to be affiliated with is shameful and even more so that he hurt innocent people just to get publicity.”

Bond voices her disprovement of Trump, “Trump incites hate. He’s the antichrist. Even the devil knows the Bible. People need to vote.”

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets among police officers on protestors has been controversial. Even though tear gas and rubber bullets are nonlethal, they still cause harm to the body. Tear gas has chemicals that when released can burn someone’s skin and eyes. A lot of mucus forms in the nose and can cause feelings of suffocation. The active compound in tear gas is called CS. If someone is close to where CS has exploded, it can cause internal bleeding and fill the lungs with extra fluid. Tear gas makes you cry, sneeze, and create excess mucus which can be very hazardous for those who have asthma and arrhythmia. There are studies that are ongoing that have linked an exposure to a small amount of CS to respiratory illnesses. Rubber bullets can cause fractures and nerve damage. Some studies show that rubber bullets might even cause internal organ damage. If rubber bullets are fired closer to the intended target, they can break bones, tear blood vessels, and so on. Blood may fill the organ.

Black Lives Matter and Its History

Black Lives Matter is a movement founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. It was started in 2013 due to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was walking on the street of the Retreat of Twin Lakes neighborhood when Zimmerman saw him, thought he looked suspicious, and called 911. The operator told him not to approach Martin, but Zimmerman did anyway and shot and killed him. When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman had cuts and bruises and stated that he shot Martin out of self defense.

The movement fights against the oppression of black people and has chapters all around the United States. The movement also is one that seeks to bring black women and black LGBQT+ people to the forefront. Some of the US cities that have chapters include Los Angeles, Long Beach, Memphis, and New York City. 

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, Alamillo states, “The Black Lives Matter movement has been a movement active since 2013 and have been fighting against the unjust treatment of black people ever since. The movement calls for all people to rise and stand together in order to bring justice for those unlawfully killed in America.”

Davis describes the Black Lives Matter movement as, “a strong, peaceful organization that supports and boosts black communities. I know they want to change how the government treats the people.”

The oppression and killing of black people has been around since the start of the United States. 10 out of the 12 first US Presidents were slaveholders and the US Constitution did not see black people as equal to white people; it saw black people as subhuman, without any rights. Historian and cultural critic Arica Coleman said that Floyd’s death was a modern day lynching because Floyd was helpless, lying on the street while Police Officer Chauvin kneeled on his neck. She described this as the ultimate display of power over an individual. Some historians say that lynchings are forerunners to police brutality and attacks from vigilantes. Usually the police officers and the vigilantes who committed these acts did not get arrested. Lynchings went on across the country and it only took an accusation from a white woman saying that a black person bumped into her or raped her for them to be hanged. During 1918, Mary Turner, a pregnant black woman, protested against her husband’s lynching. Her husband was accused of killing Hampton Smith, a plantation owner. Mary Turner denied this and threatened to have the white mob that lynched her husband to be arrested. Then, a white mob came after her and tied her up, doused gasoline on her, lit her on fire, opened up her stomach, and stomped on her unborn child. In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy, went on a trip to see his relatives in Mississippi. He was accused of whistling at a white woman. Till was tortured, shot multiple times, wrapped in barbed wire, attached to a 75 lb. fan, and then was swung into the Tallahatchie river. The woman that accused Till of whistling at her eventually admitted many years later that she made it up. In 2020, Christian Cooper, a black man, was bird watching in the Ramble area of Central Park when he told Amy Cooper, a white woman, that she should leash her dog. There is a rule in the Ramble part of Central Park that states that dogs must be leashed. She then threatened to call the police on him. She called 911 and changed her voice to sound like she was distressed. Christian Cooper video taped the whole thing and posted it on social media. By law in Georgia, there was a militia of slaveholders and other white citizens to enforce slavery. Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, the people involved in Ahmaud Arbery’s death, were likened to slave catchers by historian, poet, and author CeLillianne Green.

Davis gives her knowledge of the history of police brutality in the United States, “I know police brutality has always been there in our history to a certain degree, but now it’s resurfacing worse than ever because power is being abused.”

Alamillo details what she knows about the subject, “I don’t know many facts about police brutality other than it has been happening for centuries against people of color, especially people of Latino and African descent. Excessive force is almost always used against innocent people who were merely minding their own business going about their day when the police decide to harass them for the color of their skin.”

Bond states that she knows that a lot of police officers have gotten away with misconduct. 

An anti-lynching bill was introduced in Congress on January 3, 2019. This bill would recognize lynching as a federal crime. There have been 200 times that Congress has introduced a federal bill for lynching, but those bills have never passed. There have been 4,742 people who were reported to have been lynched from 1882-1968. Almost all of the perpetrators were not charged for what they did. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the only senator that called for an amendment for the bill. All of this has happened with the background of Floyd’s death and funeral. He talked about how the legislation is too broad when it comes to define certain acts as lynching. Paul brought up how the United States has the Hate Crimes Act, which categorizes killing someone due to their race as a hate crime. Both Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California both were very emotional in arguing against Paul’s request for amending the anti-lynching bill and disagreed with the amendment proposed by Senator Rand Paul.

The Deaths

Ahmaud Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020, and the men that committed the crime still have not been put in jail. George McMichael, a former police officer at the Glynn Police Department (GPD), saw Arbery jogging and believed him to be the man that was committing break-ins at the construction site in Satilla Shores. He notified his son, Travis, about this and decided to pursue Arbery. Gregory McMichael called 911 and said that they were chasing down a burglary suspect. A neighbor of the McMichaels, Bryan, asked them if they got Arbery and decided to pursue him with them. Before Bryan started recording the video of the shooting, he hit Arbery with his truck. The McMichaels and Bryan both used their trucks to block in Arbery. They went after Arbery in their vehicle and stated that they wanted to talk to him. Travis McMichael got out of the vehicle with his gun and he and Arbery got into a physical confrontation. Travis then fatally shot Arbery three times. Bryan stated that Travis McMichael used a racial slur to describe Arbery after he shot him. On May 7th, the McMichaels were charged with murder and aggravated assault. On May 21st, Bryan was charged with criminal attempt to make false imprisonment.

Footage has been released in the case which shows an unidentified black male entering the construction site in Satilla Shores. Larry English, the owner of the construction site, said that the man went in there for water. A white couple entered the plant and neighborhood children were seen playing around it; these people were not looked at as subjects by the McMichaels. 

Gregory McMichael was an investigator for the Glynn County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office. McMichael helped with the prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery for a weapons charge. Arbery served five years probation. He worked from 1995 at the DA’s office until he retired in May 2019. In 2014, McMichael faced suspension when it was found out that he worked without necessary training in deadly force and firearms. He was a police officer at the Glynn County Police Department during 1982-1989.

To commemorate Ahmaud Arbery’s birthday, people ran 2.23 miles (2.23 signifies the date of his death) and used the hashtag #IRunWithMaud in his honor.

Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was killed by police officers who entered her home without knocking for a drug investigation. They did not wear body cameras, since they were plainclothesmen police officers. The police officers came over to deliver a search warrant because of a package that a former boyfriend of hers sent her. The police claimed that they announced themselves and were immediately shot at, but the family claims that they didn’t announce that they were police officers.  Kenneth Walker, her boyfriend, believed that they were being robbed, so he grabbed his gun and shot at the leg of a police officer. The police officers shot back and shot Taylor at least eight times. Kenneth Walker was put in jail and was later released. Her parents have a lawsuit against the three police officers who are involved and also want to make changes to the police department in Louisville. They want to make it necessary for police officers to wear cameras at all times and that they have to announce themselves when they enter someone’s house. Friends and family are planning to have to go to Downtown Louisville to celebrate Taylor’s life. All police officers at the Louisville Police Department now have to wear cameras and search warrants will be carried out in a different way. 

In comparison to Floyd’s and Arbery’s cases, Taylor’s case has not gotten that much attention and family members worry that she will be forgotten.

Davis states why she thinks people are not focusing that much on Taylor’s case, “People have been posting and [are] so focused on the Floyd and Arbery cases that it’s [Taylor’s case] not really receiving that much attention, but they’re all relevant.”

Alamillo states that a lack of video evidence might be the reason why Taylor’s case has not gotten as much attention.

George Floyd, a former security guard, was confronted in his car by shopkeepers from Cup Foods, a store in Minneapolis, who said that he paid for cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. Since Floyd did not return the cigarettes, the shopkeepers decided to call 911. The 911 phone call transcript shows that the shopkeeper that made the call said that Floyd was drunk and ‘not in control of himself.’ Shortly after the call, two police officers named Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Keung arrived at the scene. Lane pulled out his gun and told Floyd to put his hands on the steering wheel of the vehicle. Then, Lane took Floyd out of the car and handcuffed him. Keunig brought him to the wall of the restaurant near Floyd’s car. They tried to put him in their police car, but Floyd said that he did not want to enter the car because he is claustrophobic. Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao both arrived. Chauvin then took Floyd and pulled him out into the street, facedown. Officers Keunig and Lane were applying pressure to Floyd’s body to make sure that he could not get up. Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for a total of nine minutes. During that time, Floyd kept on telling the police officers that he could not breathe. Floyd called out for his deceased mother. Bystanders were recording what was happening and repeatedly told Chauvin to let Floyd go. Even after Floyd was unconscious, Chauvin did not remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. In many police departments, applying pressure on the neck is only used during life or death situations due to how it can easily put someone’s life in danger.  Chauvin has been charged with 3rd degree murder, manslaughter, and 2nd degree murder. Floyd’s parents are pushing for Chauvin to get first degree murder charges. The other three officers that were complicit in Floyd’s death got charged with abetting and aiding 2nd degree murder and aiding and abetting 2nd degree manslaughter. 

Davis believes that the Floyd case has had more reach because, “It was recorded and other officers watch[ed] the killing take place. I think because some people were going stir crazy during the quarantine that they were feeling fed up with being stuck and not being able to do anything about it. People around the nation probably felt trapped and belittled as well.”

Alamillo states why she thinks Floyd’s death has the impact that it has, “It was filmed for the world to see. As Will Smith has said ‘Racism isn’t getting worse. It’s getting filmed.’ My generation is all about sharing. The video had been shared wide and spread like a wildfire. I don’t think that the COVID had anything to do with it since living with COVID is becoming a new normal, just as living with racism has become normal. Racism should never have been normalized, but we had grown accustomed to hearing about the murders of innocent people of color throughout history.”

Jacqueline Bond states, “I think it has received more attention due to social media and people other than black people were tired of racism. I don’t think it had a connection to the pandemic.”

Erika Davis describes how she reacted to the killings of Taylor, Arbery, and Floyd:

I was shocked and upset, but not surprised. Killings like these have happened way before in our history and now they are continuing to happen, while others watch and share it, but that doesn’t really do anything than spread awareness rather than change and PREVENT things like this from happening in the future.

Alamillo states how she felt when she heard about the deaths, “I was so shocked and horrified to see and hear about their death. When watching the gruesome video of Ahmaud’s killing I couldn’t help but shed some tears at the sight. He was simply going on a jog and he lost his life. Breonna Taylor was on her way to being a medical professional and her death was absolutely tragic. I shed so many tears watching the video of George Floyd’s death and hearing him begging for his life had made my heart stop. It was a heartbreaking thing to witness.”

Jacqueline Bond lists the emotions that she felt after learning about the cases, “Disgusted, fearful, sad, and angry.”

Davis states how these cases have reminded her of others where black people have died due to police brutality, “It reminds me of stories my grandparents tell me and other cases you’ve seen on the news and some that are ‘unpopular’ and ‘under the radar.’”

Regarding the pattern, Alamillo says, “The death of Breonna Taylor is an example of many unlawful killings of innocent black lives that have been happening for centuries. Racism is a deeply rooted problem especially in law enforcement and seeing more people die at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve breaks my heart.”

Jacqueline Bond stated that the cases reminded her of Rodney King. Rodney King, a black man, was pulled over by police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department for speeding. He then tried to get away from the police officers on foot. He was then tased, hit with batons, and kicked by the police officers. This started protests and riots in Los Angeles County.

Former Hmong police officer Thao watched Floyd yell that he “can’t breathe” and did nothing to stop what was happening to him. Thao’s complicity in the death of Floyd has highlighted relations between the Asian and Black communities. An article by NBC News talks about the history of anti-blackness in the Asian community. During the Rodney King riots, there was $1 billion damage to businesses in Los Angeles, and almost half of those businesses were Korean owned. Also, during the resettlement of Southeast Asians refugees during the Vietnam War, many were placed in poorly funded urban areas, where they had to compete with black and brown people for resources. However, after Floyd’s death, there have been campaigns and town halls that have been organized to build solidarity between Asian and Black communities.  

Police Misconduct and Brutality

After Abery’s death, it was later found out that Officer Rash from the GPD recommended that Larry English, the owner of the construction site, let Gregory McMichael know if he gets any video of people who are found trespassing on his construction site. English’s attorney, J. Elizabeth Graddy, said that he did not see the text message and that he never contacted Gregory McMichael. Rash was involved in a controversial case where he did not arrest Lieutenant Sasser, who went to his ex-wife’s house and assaulted her in front of Rash and other officers. When the situation became less intense, the officers started to joke about the incident. Later on, Sasser killed himself, his ex-wife, and her male friend. A website, runwithmaud (which is run by The Action PAC) advocates for the arrest of Police Officer Rash.

In Floyd’s case, both Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao have multiple complaints against them. Thao has a brutality charge and before killing Floyd, Chauvin has been involved in various altercations while being a police officer. Chauvin was involved in the shooting of Wayne Reyes. Reyes stabbed his girlfriend and his friend. He also threatened to shoot the police. Reyes tried to flee in his truck and got out of the automobile with his gun, which garnered multiple shots from police officers. There was uncertainty to whoever shot Reyes and whether Reyes had made threats, either physical or verbal, toward the police officers. In another case, the police were called due to a domestic disturbance complaint. According to police accounts, Ira Toles locked himself in the bathroom and Chauvin then had to break down the bathroom door. Chauvin told Toles that he must get down, however Toles did not follow what Chauvin told him to do. Then there was a physical confrontation between the two and Toles tried to get ahold of Chauvin’s gun.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Toles said that he was hiding in the bathroom when Chauvin knocked down his bathroom door. Then, Chauvin started to hit him repeatedly and that he was too disoriented to grab Chauvin’s gun. 

Regarding if she knows of any cases of police brutality that have happened in the High Desert, Davis respondes, “As of right now, I don’t know of any specifically, but when I was driving in the Victor Valley area, I saw two cop cars pull up on a homeless man who was sitting on the curb by some apartments, and shove and tackle him to the ground.”

Erika Davis believes that police officers exert this behavior and are involved in misconduct because of how they were taught. She also states, “… There is no excuse for acting this way…They are probably involved in misconduct due to peer pressure and the feeling to please or impress those around them.”

Alamillo describes the factors that she believes make up police brutality, “I think the biggest factors that play into police brutality [are] racism and abuse of power. The power gets to the cop’s head and suddenly they do not enforce the law, they are the law. They become so prideful and forget that they are citizens under the law as well. They believe they are protected from prosecution when having committed a crime just because they are law enforcement. Pride can be a very dangerous thing and racism has plagued this nation for centuries.”

Davis gives her input on why she thinks police departments, like the Minneapolis Police Department, act in a negligent way towards dealing with misconduct, “I think it’s because of their leniency with the law and how easy it is for the people with power to get away with stuff. I think they cover up stuff to continue their unlawful behavior.”

Bond explains her stance on why police departments are embroiled in unlawful behavior, “I think because they have a tendency to cover up for each other. I think it’s called something like ‘blue code of honor.’ Maybe because no one spoke up and made such a fuss, like putting it on social media.”

Although African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans, people of all races have dealt with police brutality. Jacqueline Bond does remember reading about a case where Francis Pusok, a white man, was savagely beaten up by police officers in the High Desert. “I don’t think Francis Pusok committed a serious crime, was armed, or resisted arrest. I saw that he was on the ground and law enforcement officers were taking turns, kicking him and beating him. I don’t think they knew that they were being recorded. They seemed to be comfortable in beating him up, indicating that this is normal practice for them.”

Francis Pusok, a white man, was beaten by San Bernardino police officers. He stole a horse and was then followed by police officers for two and a half hours. When they caught up with him, they fired a taser at him and then they started beating him up. The deputies, who were involved, were then put on paid administrative lead.

Martin Gugino, a 75 year old man, was pushed down to the ground by two police officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, in Buffalo during a protest. This happened a little bit after the 8:00 PM curfew.  The police officers that did this were suspended without pay. After the suspension, the other police officers in the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team quit. Gugino suffered a brain injury from the incident. 

Reforms

Davis lists some reforms that she believes police departments could put in place to help decrease misconduct, “Honestly, they can give detailed and thorough reports on why they did and what protocols they could’ve used to help smooth the situation. Overall, they just need to find police officers with better character.”

Although Alamillo does not know of any reforms that are currently in place to decrease the cases of police brutality, she supports clearly educating and properly training the individuals looking to pursue law enforcement. She states, “There must also be a reform which holds police accountable for their actions; they are citizens of the United States under law as well and they should be judged as such when in court.”

Bond lists some of the ways police departments could be reformed: “Have culturally sensitive training and emphasize on civil rights like they do with correctional centers and CFS [Children and Family Services]. Have a grievance process available to the community, so that citizens have a way of communicating their negative experiences and holding law enforcement accountable. I think requiring a higher level of education and particular courses to be taken.”

Due to the reforms that big cities have done (such as making police officers wear body cameras and descelation processes) the number of police killings have decreased. Also, fewer arrests have been made in big cities, which decreases the police use of force. Departments show that a decrease in arrests show a decrease in number of police killings. The death of Laquan McDonald in Chicago and the killing of James Harper in Dallas made the police department in those areas respectively implement reforms, which then decreased the number of police shootings and killings. However in suburban and rural areas, there has been an increase in police killings. Suburban and rural areas, unlike urban areas, have not adopted reforms, such as restrictive use-of-force policies or accountability systems to help decrease the number of police killings. In suburban areas, Latinos are being killed more by the police and in rural areas as well. Also, white people are being killed more by the police. In rural areas, there is a longer line awaiting for their trial to be heard. 

Alamillo stated that she is not surprised that rural and suburban areas have more police killings.

Davis said that she did not previously know about this. She knows that some cases go unreported or brushed aside. 

Bond stated, “I believe it because most people who don’t know their rights get taken advantage of. Most rural towns/areas are maltreated and law enforcement gets away with a lot.” Regarding her prior hometown, she explains, “Leflore County, Oklahoma, has a lot of racism, sexism, and segregation that still exists today. The minorities have designated areas to live in. At certain times, the black people are allowed to go shopping. Hispanics and blacks are prevented from living among the white communities. A reform is said to have started in 2018, where the ‘good ole boy system’ [the criminal justice system in LeFlore] is being eliminated by the entire law enforcement in various towns being replaced by out of county law enforcement. I have not seen much change due to the courts, attorneys, and judges remaining to be the same.”

Supporting the Movement

An open letter that has been signed by many celebrities; such as Lizzo, Jane Fonda, and the Weeknd; is calling for the defunding of the police. It is noted that all funding to the police will not be stopped, but some of the funding that goes to the police will go to health care and education to help assist black communities. This letter was started by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The Black Lives Matter website has given a statement affirming that the defunding of the police must take place. There is a petition at the bottom of the page for people to sign.

Erika gives her opinion on whether or not the police should be defunded, “I think there’s two sides; that will benefit the people, but also not every cop is bad. This will ultimately cause some cops to possibly retaliate and take it out the wrong way. I’m sure it won’t be forever, so they’ll be fine and get over it because they knew when they signed up to be a cop that it was going to be a tough job. For now, yes, I do think it is the right action [to take].”

Alamillo states why she thinks the police should be defunded, “I definitely think that law enforcement is overly funded and those funds should be redirected elsewhere. For example, the medical professionals…are in need of…resources in order to combat viruses and illnesses that plague the American people; it would certainly be a step in the right direction.”

Bond details why it would not be a good idea to defund the police, “I’m not sure if that will help because it may cause law enforcement to have disgruntled employees who might act out more. I think checks and balances involving the community would be more effective.”

In addition to protests and petitions, many people are supporting the cause in other ways. Videos have been posted on YouTube where people who do not have a lot of money can still help. All of the advertising revenue from those videos will be donated to several organizations including the ACLU, Brooklyn Bail Fund, Black Lives Matter, and so on. 

GoFundMe pages have been started up by representatives of the families and the families themselves of Floyd and Breonna. The sister of Floyd, Philonise Floyd, started a GoFundMe page for people to donate money to fund Floyd’s funeral service expenses, mental health counseling, traveling expenses for court appearances, and so on. It has received almost over $12,000,000 donations, more than the $1,500,000 goal. Tiffany Lee of Stewart Trial Attorneys created a GoFundMe account where all of the money received will be placed in a trust fund for Gianna, Floyd’s daughter, and Roxie Washington, her mother. The money received will help pay for Gianna’s education, mental health counseling, and so on. Akeem Baker, a friend of Arbery’s, set up a GoFundMe page to help his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, for financial support. The donations that have been made are close to $2,000,000, which is over the goal of $100,000. Nathan Langfitt has created a GoFundMe page for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that focuses on fighting hate crimes and injustices. Ashlie Klavon and Samantha Harder also created a GoFundMe page for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund to raise money in remembrance of Ahmaud’s birthday, which was on May 8th. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund is a non-profit organization that is the US’s defining legal counsel that fights for racial justice. Some of the issues that they focus on are education, economic justice, and so on. A GoFundMe page for Breonna Taylor set up by her aunt, Bianca Austin, and it has raised over $4,000,000, well over the $500,000 goal. Radio station in Louisville, Kentucky, called 103.9 has a GoFundMe page that is raising money for Taylor and has so far raised $502 out of their $500,000 goal. 

A website that was started by a 17 year old student, who goes by Nico, called blacklivesmatter.carrd.co assists those to find a way to help the Black Lives Matter Movement, prepare for protesting, spread the word about police brutality incidents, and educate about the history of oppression against black people in the United States. 

There have been George Floyd protests in all over the world, decrying police brutality and calling for change to be made in policing. These protests have echoed the Civil Rights protests back in the 1960s, when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. During this pandemic, when lives are on the line, people are out protesting for their rights and to be seen as human beings before the law.