The flurry of seismic events and historic firsts in the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, amidst COVID-19, have flown by so quickly it can feel like the magnitude hasn’t registered. The enormity probably hasn’t sunk in because we’re still in the throes of both the pandemic and the initial stage of acknowledging systemic racism in a country painfully unable to do so. Aside from cataloguing a brief (by no means exhaustive) selection of these whirlwind moments, this timeline might function as a pause button; to see how much has transpired so fast, with some context and a little hindsight. Because amidst the pain and tragedy, the last few weeks have shown the potential for substantive progress and concrete actions to begin righting decades and centuries of wrongs.
A July New York Times report, “Black Lives Matter May be The Largest Movement in U.S. History” offers context between the 2020 protests and the 1960s civil rights marches with hundreds of thousands on the streets, “4 recent polls…suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the U.S. have participated in demonstrations…These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history”. The other notable difference inextricably linked to the larger turnout this time around in the 2020 BLM movement is the increase of white supporters / fellow protesters, showing up in the kind of necessary ally numbers that simply were not present in the 1960s marches.
The amount of firsts taking place is partially what inspired this timeline. Mass protests of this size, involving thousands of Americans in any given city, day after day, is a first. The mass appearance of this many hundreds of police officers and/or national guard members in dozens of states, everyday, is a first. The ubiquity of this many cameras at protests this massive is a first. Police brazenly emboldened by the unrest executing so many relentless, violent attacks on hundreds of peaceful protesters, knowing they’re being filmed by potentially dozens of cameras, is a first. All during a raging, once-a-century global pandemic.
A timeline of the 3-week period from May 25th, the day Floyd was killed – as coronavirus was spiking – to June 14th is impossible to capture in an article; there’s no way to do justice to these cataclysmic up-endings. Books will be written about the few weeks it took for protests that began with Floyd’s murder to snowball into reigniting the years-long Black Lives Matter movement which further snowballed into spotlighting the new round (yet old habit) of police brutality gone steroidal. Three weeks is a precarious choice as we’re still living through this extraordinary moment of heartache and hope. The changes that have already begun though, while only a start, are formidable.
The other part that inspired this timeline was the phrase, “If someone told you in X that X would happen, would you believe it?”, as in –
“If someone told you in January that the pandemic in China would, in a few months, stop the entire world in its tracks and rewrite life as we know it…would you believe it?”
Then, “If someone told you in May that the death of another black man by a white officer caught on video would turn America into the kind of marching, protesting nation it’s never fully been, undo social distancing practically overnight, and inspire both the U.S. and nations abroad to reckon with centuries-long avoidance of racism…would you believe it?”
By presenting a sliver of these highlights, perhaps we can see how they’re connected. Maybe, we can widen our imaginations, becoming more open to how big events are moving faster than we once imagined. And that if not one, but two, world-altering events can occur before the first half of a year is over, we might be more prepared and less surprised as the impossible becomes increasingly possible.
May 25th Monday: Day 1
* On Memorial Day in Minneapolis, George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, is filmed being murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white policeman, aided and abetted by three officers. The video shows Floyd handcuffed on the ground and kneeled on to death for 8 minutes, 46 seconds by Chauvin (and at one point two of the others), hands in pocket, staring into the camera as Floyd repeats, “I can’t breathe”.
May 26th Tuesday: Day 2
* The Minneapolis PD releases a brief statement distorting the event, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” With no mention of “murder” or “homicide,” the report says Floyd “physically resisted” arrest. The video shows no resistance. The report notes, “he appeared to be suffering medical distress” and “at no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident,” belying the medical distress suffered by Floyd in the “incident” was Chauvin’s knee, functioning as a murder weapon.
* The video of Floyd’s murder, contradicting the police report, goes viral.
* The four officers are fired and an F.B.I. investigation begins. Protests start in Minneapolis, as hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the Police Department. Some protests are peaceful, while stores burn down in others. Officers are indiscriminate to the differing protests – tear gas, flash grenades, stun guns and shooting rubber bullets.
* For the first time, Twitter factchecks tweets by the President, adding, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots“. While Twitter releases a statement that the tweets “contain potentially misleading information”, the company doesn’t remove them. Facebook continues to take no action against the same posts.
* A macabre first: to return to work, Wall Street traders at the NYSE are required to sign death waivers.
May 27th Wednesday: Day 3
* Demonstrators began organizing in other cities, now mobilizing for the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice in the recent murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Also driving the uprising is calling attention to systemic police violence against blacks and institutionalized racism. Most protests remain peaceful, while few become violent. In Los Angeles, a freeway is blocked; in St. Louis, a man killed after protesters block an Interstate; in Chicago, six people shot and one killed.
May 28th Thursday: Day 4__
* The total number of unemployed Americans reaches 40 million; 1 in 4 U.S. workers – its highest since the Great Depression.
* Days after Twitter factchecked him, the President signs an executive order aimed at narrowing protections for social media platforms. With pressure increasing on Facebook to respond to the President’s lie-posts, Mark Zuckerberg says on Fox News, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online”.
* Social distancing begins to disintegrate, as unrest spreads to more cities: Manhattan, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus. While many wear masks, the 6-foot distance guideline grows unsustainable.
May 29th Friday: Day 5
* Chauvin is arrested and charged with Third-degree murder and Second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers are still not charged.
* Both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Governor Walz issue curfews in response to the unceasing, and at times, chaotic protests.
* While reporting live on-air for CNN in Minneapolis, reporter Omar Jiminez, who is Black and Latino, and his crew are arrested by riot gear-clad officers as he’s asking them if his team should move.
* A crowd outside the White House prompts a lockdown and the President “inspects” his bunker.
* In a first, an American President directly threatens U.S. citizens by lethal force. For demonstrating their First Amendment rights. On Twitter, he repeats the racist threat first uttered in 1967 by racist police Chief Walter Headley “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He also dog-whistles the protesters as “THUGS”. For the second time in three days, Twitter states the President violated its rules, this time “for glorifying violence.” Twitter, again, does not remove the tweet. The same post made on Facebook is neither flagged or removed.
* Near a protest in Oakland, a federal law enforcement officer is killed and his partner wounded by an unknown shooter while providing security at a California courthouse. In eight days, on June 6th, a Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant will also be shot and killed in an ambush when responding to a van with firearms and bomb-making materials. Weeks later, both murders are tied to an Air Force Sergeant, Steven Carillo and his accomplice. The FBI will say, “They came to Oakland to kill cops,” and confirm that Carillo belongs to the insurrectionist “boogaloo” movement.
The “boogaloo” movement – an armed, loose-knit, racist, right-wing extremist group gaining traction in social media groups – begins to move offline to hijack the protests for their own violent agenda. A February news report – pre-dating both the COVID-19 surge in America, as well as the protests – warned of the patchwork group of white nationalists. Participants are anarchist, vigilantly pro-Second Amendment members of citizen-militias preparing to stoke violence and chaos to initiate a second Civil War. Their plans to mobilize were deterred once coronavirus stopped outdoor gatherings. But they were quick to pivot, according to an April report, “US far right seeks ways to exploit coronavirus and cause social collapse”. Just before the protests, the accelerationist group shifted tactics to exploit the COVID-19 moment in efforts to “sow chaos to hasten the collapse of society and build a white supremacist one in its place”. When the protests began, they immediately took advantage of the newfound opportunity.
* Protests over Floyd’s death erupt to dozens of cities, with a significant development; the broad coalition of white Americans showing up in support. Meanwhile, the few chaotic moments drowning out the many peaceful ones continues. Protesters in Atlanta outside CNN headquarters spraypaint and break windows. In Manhattan, some set NYPD vehicles on fire as police respond with pepper spray, rubber bullets and mass arrests with clashes leaving officers and demonstrators injured.
One of the biggest firsts is the explosion of videos showing police brutality at the protests. While videos of police brutality aren’t new, what’s different is the sheer totality of videos generating because of the protests. In the following weeks, dozens of videos (soon totaling hundreds) go viral everyday of police attacking peaceful protesters with gratuitous force regardless of age, gender or race. In the days ahead, headlines summarize this shift in the protest as, “Protests about police brutality met with wave of police brutality across U.S.” Shoving, punching, kicking, striking with batons, firing tear gas, launching pepper spray and shooting rubber bullets at non-violent protesters (permanently blinding some) become a constant. Others are caught in the crossfire: tv correspondents, journalists, photographers, greenhats (legal observers) and medics.When protests ebb weeks later, reporting will confirm that by June 18th, tear gas was used in over 100 U.S. cities and the brief period described as “the most widespread domestic use of tear gas amongst demonstrators since the long years of unrest in the late 1960s and early 70s.”
May 30th Saturday: Day 6
* Two NYPD vehicles drive through a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn. Videos show protesters hold a barricade and throw items at a stopped NYPD SUV. Seconds later, another NYPD car approaches slowly and then accelerates, hitting several people. Then, the first vehicle does the same.
* A first: A U.S. President, amping his culture war election strategy, seeks to incite public acts of violence by pitting two sets of protesters against one another, tweeting “The professionally managed so-called “protesters” at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble. The Secret Service handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” Lost in his curated distraction is that the President is encouraging people to defy social distancing, expediting the spread of coronavirus. The President continues threatening violence against American citizens expressing their First Amendment rights outside the White House, tweeting, “Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”
* Governor Walz, calling the unrest “absolute chaos”, issues a state of emergency and expands the activation of the Minnesota National Guard to full mobilization due to destruction he blames on protesters from outside the state. This is the first time since the protests began that public officials confirm outside agitators descending to carry out violent agendas and ideologies by blending in.
* The President postpones the G7 summit until September and wants to invite Russia, despite the country being kicked out of the G8 for invading Ukraine.
May 31st Sunday: Day 7
* Governor Walz appoints State AG Keith Ellison to take over the case as special prosecutor.
* Reports arrive that Zuckerberg and the President had a “productive” phone call.
* Demonstrations spread to London, Berlin and Toronto. International protesters defy COVID-19 restrictions, carrying “I can’t breathe” signs and chanting “No justice, no peace” outside U.S. embassies. The AP: “World alarmed by violence in US; thousands march in London“.
* The President tweets that “antifa” (a small, unorganized group of anti-fascist protestors) will be designated a “terrorist organization.” “Antifa” isn’t an organization. FBI Director Chris Wray in 2017, “we’re not investigating antifa as antifa – that’s an ideology, we don’t investigate ideologies.”
* During the day, although hundreds of thousands of people march peacefully throughout the country, cities report hundreds of arrests as protesters clash with police and some areas are looted. As many as 20 states in more than 40 cities issue citywide curfews, which many will defy.
* Over the weekend, protests take place in over 140 cities. More than 17,000 National Guard members are activated in 23 states. CBS News reports that police arrest over the weekend 7,200 people arrested in 43 U.S. cities over the weekend. Some demonstrations turn violent, with several shot and another several killed. Most of the protests that turn violent continue to be a result of police aggression.
* Growing numbers of journalists, national and foreign, covering the protests are arrested and injured by police while, even when displaying press badges. Molly Hennessy-Fiske, a reporter and war correspondent struck by rubber bullets, during the protests says, “I’ve covered protests involving police in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Dallas and Los Angeles. I’ve covered the U.S. military in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve never been fired at by police until tonight.“. By July 1st, U.S Press Freedom Tracker will count 484 reported aggressions against the press during the protests, 64 arrests, 112 journalist attacks (67 by law enforcement), 68 tear gassings, 33 pepper sprayings and 104 rubber bullet / projectiles.
June 1st Monday: Day 8
* The Guardian: George Floyd protests across U.S. create greatest uprising since 1968
* Two new autopsies, while differing in detail, confirm Floyd died by homicide. Both contradict the preliminary one cited by prosecutors which “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” The independent autopsy conducted by doctors hired by Floyd’s family states he died not only because of Chauvin’s knee, but also because the other officers helped hold him down. The medical investigator’s response will later reveal Floyd also had coronoavirus.
* Hundreds of Facebook employees stage a “virtual walkout” to demonstrate their opposition to Zuckerberg’s decision to leave the President’s posts calling for violence up on the site.
* Three firsts, one phone call: In leaked audio of a call between Governors discussing the protests with the President, Attorney General Bill Barr and Defense Secretary Mark Esper – all three use the word “dominate” when discussing U.S. citizens. Other battle metaphors with the public viewed as enemy include the President calling protesters “terrorists” and “it’s like we’re talking about a war.” The AG adds, “We have to take out the professional instigators and the leadership group and the way to do that is to start with a strong statement in the major cities”. The Defense Secretary refers to American streets as a war theater, saying “we need to dominate the battlespace.”
* Though the National Guard (reserve soldiers, living and working in their home states) has been deployed over the last several days, the military’s active-duty armed forces have not. According to reports, the President considers invoking the Insurrection Act (meant for natural disasters or terrorist attacks), which would deploy active-duty U.S. military troops to respond against the American people. He addresses this in a speech, also notable for ongoing references to the Second Amendment.
“I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights…Today, I have strongly recommended to every Governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets…. If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the U.S. military and quickly solve the problem for them…As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law-enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”
* While active-duty military troops are now being called in from all over the country and travelling to D.C., they remain on standby, but not deployed. Reports emerge later that the soldiers, while awaiting activation that never arrived, were issued live ammunition and bayonets.
* A veritable Russian nesting doll of firsts contained in a single event: one of the largest shows of state-sanctioned violence and riot control tactics against peaceful protesters in the U.S.
An American President and his Attorney General – either because they didn’t plan in advance, liked the optics of armed riot police and military outfitted National Guard soldiers, or both – sic an overwhelming number of masked, riot-geared tear-gassing officers on peaceful protesters in a coordinated attack. The President had decided to do a photo op at the historic St. John’s Church (the Church of the Presidents) past Lafayette Park across from the White House. Without warning, the President’s assembled army attacks peaceful protesters to clear a path; shoving with riot shields, striking with batons, shooting rubber bullets, firing smoke canisters and unleashing tear gas, pepper spray and flash grenades. Numerous videos circulate online immediately. The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann Budde, later admonishes the President for abusing the sacred grounds. Not only were church officials not told of the photo-op, one of the visiting priests was tear-gassed trying to help shocked demonstrators leave.
Later that night, the President orders military aircraft, including a Black Hawk, to fly above the protesters as a “show of force” against the protesters. Reports later confirm the helicopters dropped as low as 45-feet above the ground, generating wind speeds equivalent to a tropical storm and snapping tree limbs. This aerial military tactic is typically used to disperse crowds in war zones.
A first: Barr coordinates the assemblage of officers, definitely not in the AG job description, with none ever having “flooded the zone” with federal firepower against law-abiding citizens.
A first: an entirely new politicization of the military as Defense Secretary Mark Esper and General Mark Milley, (in military fatigues), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, join the President’s photo op.
Though not all were involved at the Church event, there was an unprecedented hodgepodge of thousands of armed officers and agents (some with no crowd control experience) from nearly two dozen different law enforcement agencies throughout the country, suddenly re-assigned by the President from their normal duties to descend on the D.C. protests. The task force operation included:
National Guard troops pulled from 11 states; U.S. Capitol Police, D.C Police, U.S. Park Police; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals; DEA, FBI agents. Officers pooled from multiple states by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and their divisions: Crisis Management Teams (CMT), Special Operations Response Teams (SORT), Disturbance Control Teams (DCT). DHS agents from ICE, Customs and Border Protection, TSA, U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Protective Service; Federal Air Marshals.
Even more disconcerting were the unidentified officers with no insignia, badge or identification. Armed, masked and riot geared, not only could they avoid accountability, the situation opened the possibility for any armed vigilante to show up and take part.
Photos of dozens of armed, masked, camouflaged officers/soldiers flanking the steps of the Lincoln Memorial go viral.
By the end of the night, a dazed, horrified sense of what just took place sinks in across the country.
* Possibly the darkest of firsts: It eventually becomes clear that the President is bent on mobilizing a military state. What won’t become clear until weeks later is how close we came to this happening.
June 2nd Tuesday: Day 9
* Barr’s role overseeing the coordinated show of military-style force is verified in numerous reports.
* Australia announces an investigation into U.S. police violence against one of their tv crews. While covering the church debacle live on-air, a cameraman is struck by an officer as a correspondent narrates through tear-gassing. Other countries whose journalists attacked by police while covering the U.S. protests include Germany, England.
* The DEA is granted sweeping new authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on protesters.
* A group of civil rights leaders, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, release a joint statement after a video call the day before with Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg regarding their unwillingness to regulate racist posts. They write, “We’re disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up…He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar, harmful things on Facebook.”
June 3rd Wednesday Day 10
* Man creates new Twitter account, posts only the President’s tweets verbatim, gets banned.
* A first: A U.S. Senator (Tom Cotton) confirms backing the President’s (unfulfilled) desires to use active-duty military force against the American public and support for the Insurrection Act. The New York Times solicits Cotton’s Op-Ed “Send In The Troops”, ostensibly a pro-fascism article. Staffers revolt, taking to Twitter in the days ahead with, “Running this puts black @NYTimes staff in danger,” as over 800 of their colleagues sign a letter of protest.
* Defense Secretary Esper publicly breaks with the President, says he doesn’t support using active-duty military troops to quell protests across America or the possibility of invoking The Insurrection Act. Instead, the National Guard (and not the active military soldiers on standby) will continue to assist monitoring the protests.
* A First: A former Defense Secretary (James Mattis) calls the President he recently served an active threat to the Constitution, who “tries to divide us”, and compares his actions to Nazi tactics.
* New reports emerge that armed boogaloo members are accelerating their presence at protests, including in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, North Carolina and Georgia. In Nevada, federal prosecutors charge three men who identify as boogaloos with possession of Molotov cocktails and conspiracy to cause destruction during Las Vegas protests. Like the Oakland Air Force Sergeant charged a week prior, all three have Military connections; an Army reservist, a former Navy member and a former Air Force member.
* All 50 states have joined the protest movement.
* In a major defeat, racist GOP Iowa Congressman Steve King loses his primary for a 10th term.
June 4th Thursday: Day 11
* House Leader Nancy Pelosi writes to the President demanding answers on the June 2nd police force-like state, names of all law enforcement and military agencies employed and which departments the still, un-identifiable federal officers came from. House Democrats send a similar letter to Barr. Democratic Senators announce legislation on “secret police”, requiring members of the armed forces and law enforcement to identify themselves and their agency.
* The President tweets a letter calling protesters “terrorists”, omits that his former lawyer wrote it.
* New fencing that went up when protesters arrived at Lafayette Park begins extending the perimeter of the White House.
* NYT: “In Turnabout, Global Leaders Urge U.S. To Protect Reporters Amid Unrest; Citing police actions against journalists, Germany, Australia and Turkey call for respect for police reform.”
* Two Buffalo police officers are seen on video shoving a 75-year-old peaceful protester. One officer pushes Martin Gugino’s chest, while another extends his baton toward him with both hands. Gugino falls backward, motionless, bleeding from his head. As an officer leans down to examine him, another one yanks him away. More officers just walk past him. In yet another police statement contradicted by video, the Buffalo PD say that during a “skirmish” with other protesters, a person was “injured when he tripped and fell.” Gugino will suffer a skull fracture, brain injury, remain in critical condition for weeks, enter rehab and is still unable to walk.
June 5th Friday: Day 12
* In a shock to Wall Street and economists, employment adds 2.5 million jobs according to data from the Labor Department, with unemployment going from 19.7% to 13.3% unemployed. That afternoon, the President describes a strong economy, as, “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.” Then, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing happening for our country. This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day in terms of equality.”
* D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ends the city’s state of emergency, posts a letter to the President, “I’m requesting that you withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from Washington, D.C…I continue to be concerned that unidentified federal personnel patrolling the streets pose both safety and national security risks…The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans.”
* D.C.’s AG Karl Racine opens an inquiry into whether the federal government had legal authority to call National Guard troops from other states to D.C.
* Further seeking to separate himself from the militarized show of force, Defense Secretary Esper oversees disarming the D.C. National Guard. The decision is made without consulting the President. The number of guardsmen deployed to D.C., nearly 5,000 from 11 states, is roughly equivalent to the number of U.S. forces serving in Iraq.
* In a new poll, 76% of Americans call racism and discrimination “a big problem”. The NYT writes, “Never before in the history of modern polling has the country expressed such widespread agreement on racism’s pervasiveness in policing, and in society at large.”
* D.C. Mayor Bowser authorizes a section of 16th Street (facing the White House) “Black Lives Matter Plaza”, as a massive swath of street is painted in giant yellow letters. Dozens of U.S. cities follow suit.
June 6th Saturday: Day 13
* The Washington Post reports that the previous day’s jobs report was deeply flawed, “the government’s official jobs report for May from Friday included a note at the bottom saying there was a ‘major’ error indicating that the unemployment rate likely should be higher than the widely reported 13.3% rate.” Had the “misclassification error’ not occurred, the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3% higher, closer to 16.3%.
* The Buffalo officers are charged with assault against the 75-year old peaceful protester. All 57 of their fellow officers from the department’s Emergency Response Team show up at the courthouse, having resigned en masse from the special unit in support of their suspended colleagues (all remain employed by the department). The two officers are suspended without pay, but not fired.
* Police forces across the nation amplify aggressive tactics through kettling, the process of diverting a crowd into a confined space, boxing them in.
June 7th Sunday: Day 14
* Colin Powell publicly excoriates the President’s attempt to politicize the military, making him the 4th ex-chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do so. There is no precedent for so many high ranking former military officers criticizing a serving president.
* The global coronavirus death toll tops 400,000, as protesters all over continue to defy lockdown.
* New York Times opinion editor James Bennett resigns amid fallout over Senator Cotton’s Op-Ed calling on military to quell protests. Bennett admits to not reading the Op-Ed before publishing.
* Having lost the confidence of the Defense Department, the President withdraws the National Guard from Washington, D.C.
June 8th Monday: Day 15
* Congressional Democrats introduce a sweeping police reform bill.
* The fence outside the While House is converted by protesters into a makeshift crowd-sourced memorial wall dedicated to BLM.
* Thousands of mourners turn out in Houston (Floyd’s hometown) for the final public viewing. Among those in attendance are former Vice President Joe Biden.
June 9th Tuesday: Day 16
* Armed boogaloo members step up attacks on protesters; some now driving cards into crowds.
* The President, seeking to distract, lies about the hospitalized 75-year old Buffalo protester, Martin Gugino. being an “Antifa Provocateur”.
* NYT: “The World Reopens, Despite Skyrocketing Coronavirus Cases – the number of infections is rising faster than ever, but many countries have decided that this is the moment to ease lockdown restrictions”
* New York prosecutors weigh misconduct or criminal charges against nearly 40 NYPD officers involved in clashes with protesters.
* As anticipated by election experts, Georgia’s primary is a “catastrophe”, with hours-long waits, faulty new voting machines and lack of ballots in largely minority areas.
* George Floyd is laid to rest.
June 10th Wednesday: Day 17
* Floyd’s brother, Philonise, testifies before Congress during a hearing on police brutality.
* The President announces his return to the campaign trail with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the site of one of the single worst incidents of racial violence in American history. On Juneteenth, no less. In 1918, the Tulsa Race Massacre saw mobs of white residents attack the prosperous African-American section of Greenwood, known as “Black Wall Street” not just on the ground, but by air, where firebombs were dropped on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. Attendees to the rally, like the NYSE / Wall Street traders, attendees to the rally will be required to sign “death waivers, stating, “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc…liable for any illness or injury”.
* The U.S. surpasses 2 million coronavirus cases.
June 11th Thursday: Day 18
* Joe Biden says in an interview that “This President is going to try to steal this election”.
* General Milley apologizes for his role in the church photo-op.
* Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the LAPD will investigate over 50 instances of officer misconduct during the protests.
* “Breonna’s Law”, a ban on no-knock warrants passes unanimously in the Louisville, Kentucky metro council. There’s still no meaningful information released regarding the investigation of her death, despite mounting protest.
June 12th Friday: Day 19
* As the “Defund The Police” movement spreads further each day, the second half of the concept continues to build: “By Reinvesting in Communities”. The Minneapolis City Council votes unanimously to pass a resolution to defund and replace the police department with a community-led public safety system. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo signs an expansive set of police misconduct bills, endorsing a major overhaul of law enforcement, including banning chokeholds. San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s push for reform includes police no longer responding to non-criminal calls.
* As a result of the culture war exacerbated by the President, several health directors across the U.S. resign after death threats due to their public service of providing COVID-19 best practices, precautions and statistic releases. By the end of June, the number will reach over 20 resignations or retirements across 13 states.
* The President’s administration cuts transgender health care protections days before SCOTUS takes up the case. In the midst of a global health pandemic, during Pride Month and on the 4th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
* Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year old Black man is killed by a white policeman who approaches him for sleeping in his car outside an Atlanta Wendy’s. Video shows a brief scuffle, then the two officers give chase before one shoots Brooks in the back.
June 13th Saturday: Day 20
* NYT: “From Cosmetics to NASCAR, Calls for Racial Justice Are Spreading; What started as a renewed push for police reform has now touched seemingly every aspect of American life – In just under three weeks since the killing of George Floyd set off widespread protests, what started as a renewed demand for police reform has now roiled seemingly every sphere of American life, prompting institutions and individuals around the country to confront enduring forms of racial discrimination.”
* The President backs down, moves his rally from Juneteenth to the following day. His campaign does not submit any health precautions or preparations to the venue.
* Video of Rayshard Brooks’ murder sparks new calls for justice and defunding the police. By day’s end, the police chief will resign, the officer who shot will be fired, the other put on administrative leave, the National Guard will arrive and the Wendy’s will be burned down by protesters.
June 14th Sunday: Day 21
* In response to the Trump administration’s transphobic health cuts on June 12th, the Floyd protests continue coalescing – this time for Black Trans Lives – with tens of thousands at weekend marches.
* At least 10 officers have been criminally charged for violent conduct during protests; all related to incidents filmed by bystanders. Several more are suspended or fired pending investigations.
Coronavirus surges across the Sun Belt; Arizona, Texas and Florida report their highest case numbers yet as cases climb in 22 states amid rushed re-openings.
What, if anything, can we take away from this information? Within these somewhat interconnected events, are there patterns forming or themes emerging to help us decipher what lies ahead? While we can’t predict the future, we can be clear-eyed in seeing just how swiftly structural change is possible during this extraordinary moment. Whether it’s good change or bad change (or both), momentum is palpable. Even though specifics are impossible to determine, there are some generalities we’re able to anticipate could be possible based on what we’ve just seen.
The brutal murder of one man activated millions of people of all races to abandon our self-imposed isolation from a lethal pandemic. That the outrage inspired so many to come together and show up in the name of racial justice has been one of the heartening bright spots in a dark year. We have reason to hope that we can meaningfully build on the momentum of the last few weeks and continue bending the moral arc, swifter than we have before.
If we view the protests through a cause/effect lens, then we can see how the protests caused a wave of mass police brutality in the kinds of numbers (spread out over the weeks) that we’ve not seen in modern times. And strangely, it feels like that barrage of unprecedented-in-scope violence is in our rearview mirror. The news cycle has moved on and it’s difficult to gauge if much of the country has moved on, as well. It’s as if that short, but unceasing burst of widespread rioting by law enforcement (so much of it captured on video) on the American public is being quickly forgotten. Yes, we are thankfully having the “defund the police to reinvest in communities” talks, but let’s not assume that what we saw was a one-off. Though it may never happen again, we shouldn’t assume it can’t.
Simultaneously, we also have reason to anticipate that in order to hold on to power for another four years, this President is unafraid of adding fuel to whatever kind of fire gets him closer to the militarized police state that he sees as a fear-based, culture war election strategy. And / or that there’s almost nothing, no matter how dangerous to democracy, that he that he and his Attorney General won’t do to win.
The last few weeks showed us all of these things at the same time. We don’t know how any of them could manifest next time around. But that shouldn’t stop us from heeding both good omens as well as warning signs. Because at the rate things are going and based on what we already know, one thing is becoming clear: by November, we are likelier than not to have a new version of, “If someone told you…”
*Banner photo courtesy of author @bkorson