By Brent Korson
Leading off Tarbell’s “A Year Later” series, the 3-week timeline following the murder of George Floyd, “21 Days in May and June That Are Still Changing America: A Brief Timeline And Historic Firsts”, was written to function as a kind of time capsule. Even through the fog of the domino effect that was immediately triggered, it was clear that this was not going to be just another story lost in the 3 ½ year-long never-ending news cycle.
On the morning of May 26th, as the news was unfolding of George’s murder, I saw a man standing in the middle of an East Village street, holding a protest sign. Just one man with a sign at an intersection. There weren’t any cars driving by when I paused to take a photo, so I don’t know how long he stayed, whether he held up traffic for any substantive period of time, or if more protesters joined him.
For the first time since the pandemic, and practically overnight, the months-long practice of social distancing collapsed as masked protesters took to the streets to march. In a matter of weeks, the sheer volume of protests revealed what was different and lacking from the 1960s civil rights movement: the solidarity, allyship and number of white protesters alongside black protesters. In effect, George Floyd ushered in the largest mass movement in our country’s history.
Did being cooped up in our homes for months on end help turn out larger numbers? Did more people who were out of work help deliver more protesters? Did working from home enable more protesters who were easily able to step outside rather than if they were at work? No matter the answer to such unknowable questions, these two world-changing events – coronavirus and the George Floyd protests / re-energized BLM movement – exploded into each other, reverberating into incalculable moving parts.
It was all those moving parts that inspired the idea of telling the aftermath in the form of a timeline. hat, and the fact that so many first-of-its-kind events were transpiring so quickly, documenting them seemed critical so as to not get lost in that endless news cycle.
Trying to make sense of where we are means asking, how did we get here? When this article published on July 8, 2020, I noted themes, patterns and foundations that seemed to be emerging. Revisiting this article one year later, it’s worth seeing if what took place in those 21 days helps answer that question today – even if only in some small, slightly less hazy way.
(Photo: Brent Korson)