It has been three weeks since the protests began in Minnesota and spread across the world. The murder of George Floyd has become the catalyst for a global uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding racial justice and equality.
While the fight is far from over, here are five positive outcomes from the protests so far:
1. All four police officers have been charged in George Floyd’s murder
After initially being charged with third degree murder, Derek Chauvin’s charge was increased to second degree murder and the three other officers involved charged with aiding and abetting murder.
2. More wrongful deaths are being investigated
The outcry over George Floyd’s murder has drawn attention to other innocent lives lost, and some may finally have a chance at receiving justice.
Breonna Taylor was shot eight times by police officers in March this year, after they stormed the wrong apartment while she was asleep in bed. No charges have been laid against the officers. The current protests have helped to bring attention to this case, with the Justice for Breonna Taylor petition now reaching over seven million signatures. There have also been important changes made to the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department:
- A mandatory requirement for all officers to now wear body cameras.
- The police chief agreed to step down, but has since been fired after yet another fatal shooting found the officers involved had turned off their body cameras.
- The mayor has requested a comprehensive review of the police department.
- The FBI are investigating the circumstances surrounding Breonna’s death.
- ‘Breonna’s Law’ was unanimously voted in last week, which bans no-knock search warrants.
Ahmaud Arbery, while jogging around the neighbourhood was chased down and killed by a former police officer and his son. Initial investigations relied solely on the killer’s account of the incident and therefore no charges were laid. Only after overwhelming public pressure and petitioning have three people now been arrested for his murder.
Georgian lawmakers have renewed their push for a hate crime bill, as one of four states with no legislation against hate crimes.
3. Politicians are listening
1st of June: In Washington D.C. Republicans and Democrats in Congress began a new push to shut down a Pentagon program that transfers military weaponry to local law enforcement departments.
2nd of June: New Jersey announced plans to reform their law enforcement, including a use-of-force database and partnering with mental health professionals to more safely respond to crises.
3rd of June: Kansas City police department announced plans to purchase body cameras for all officers.
Ferguson elects its first black mayor, Ella Jones, who is also the first woman to be mayor of the city.
4th of June: A bill was passed in Michigan which requires mandatory training on implicit bias, violence de-escalation and mental health screening for all police officers.
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler announced the removal of all police officers from public schools.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced a cut of 150 million from the LAPD budget to be redirected back into the community, after protestors campaigned outside his home.
7th of June: The Minneapolis city council pledged to disband the city’s police department and move to a community-based public safety model.
8th of June: Chokeholds banned and criminalised in the state of New York. The carotid restraint has also been banned or restricted in Houston, Indianapolis, Denver, Phoenix, California, Washington, Florida and Chicago.
Andrew Cuomo (Governor of New York) is pushing for an ‘Amy Cooper’ bill to be passed, which would make it a hate crime when 911 callers make a false accusation based on race, gender or religion.
Democrats in Congress introduced the Justice in Policing Act, which seeks policing reform through multiple avenues: police accountability, police transparency through data, police training and policies, and justice for victims of lynching – although stops short at diverting police funds towards social welfare programs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill was a “first step” in targeting systemic racism in the US.
The bill is currently being reviewed in the Republican-majority Senate.
Chokeholds banned in France, as announced by the interior minister Christophe Castaner.
9th of June: The Washington D.C. council unanimously passed an emergency police-reform bill requiring body-camera footage to be made public more quickly after a police shooting, imposing limits on when officers can use deadly force and banning the Metropolitan Police Department from buying military-style equipment from the federal government.
The New Zealand police commissioner cancelled plans to arm police officers, following public protests and petitioning amid concerns for the disproportionate impact this would have on Māori and Pasific people.
11th of June: The Scottish parliament called for immediate suspension of tear gas, rubber bullet and riot shield exports to the US.
166 MPs from the Labour party, the Conservatives, SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, Alliance, and SDLP signed a letter last week calling for a similar suspension.
Scotland also voted unanimously to create a ‘Museum of Slavery’ to “shine a light on this country’s grim past connections with slavery and how the inequality of that history perpetuates even now”, said Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Green Party.
San Fransisco released a new wave of police reforms, which include replacing officers with trained, unarmed professionals when responding to non-violent crimes.
4. Racist statues are finally coming down across the world
In the USA at least 41 monuments and memorials have been removed or are scheduled to be removed due to their connections to the slave trade or to the Confederacy through slavery, the Lost Cause movement, segregation, or racism.
In the UK two statues have been removed, both were slave traders.
In Belgium one statue of a brutal slave owner, mutilator and mass murderer has been removed.
In New Zealand one statue has been removed, of a British naval commander responsible for killing indigenous Māori people defending their land against British colonial expansion in the 19th century.
There are still many more statues standing that are linked to the slave trade, confederacy, colonialism and other oppressions. The current protests have renewed calls for all statues to be removed across Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. In Africa colonialist statues have been vandalised, torn down or protested against since as early as the 1980s.
Statues are for celebrating history. Figures of oppression should not be celebrated. They belong in museums for education on our uncomfortable past.
London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the capital’s landmarks – including street names, the names of public buildings and plaques – will be reviewed by a commission to ensure they reflect the capital’s diversity, with a view to removing those with links to slavery. A petition calling for the removal of all slave traders in the UK has gained over 180,000 signatures.
There are many state-wide petitions to remove confederate and racist statues in the USA.
5. Companies are being held accountable
When it comes to systemic racism, companies play a large part in upholding white supremacy. This can be from racially profiling customers on the shop floor, to an all-white board of directors, to using their platform to nurture and monetize hate speak (Facebook, Reddit and Fox News, for example).
When the racism crisis is pushed into the mainstream spotlight it is common for companies to issue a faux solidarity social media post, with a vague mention of a cursory charitable donation. But this time employees and consumers are saying that’s not enough and are calling these companies out for their hypocrisy.
It is these actions that will lead to real change in the corporate world, and we are already seeing this in the last three weeks.
When L’Oréal issued a performative statement in support of Black Lives Matter followers were quick to point out their deception, having fired trans black model Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke out against white privilege in 2017. The public outrage eventually led to a discussion between Munroe and the president of L’Oréal. She has now accepted a consultancy role on their UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, and L’Oréal have issued a public apology. Time will tell on whether there will be lasting change here but it is a big step forward for this major company, and a great example of how public engagement can force accountability.
After Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters issued similar vague statements of support, many consumers started to share their experiences of being racially profiled in store. Current and former employees shared details on ‘codenames’ that were widely used for black people shopping in store. All of this on top of heavily white campaigns and an all-white board of directors has forced the corporation to admit they are not doing enough.
There are a number of Instagram accounts who work hard to hold companies accountable to their BLM statements. Pull Up Or Shut Up posts details on the number of black employees major companies have at a corporate level and in leadership roles. Diet Prada is a fashion parody account that exposes companies for their inaction, lack of diversity and discrimination.
When founder and CEO of CrossFit Greg Glassman posted insensitive tweets about the death of George Floyd, the backlash was swift and just. Many CrossFit-affiliated gyms cut ties with the brand, and Reebok ended their sponsorship. After attempting to make amends via a Zoom call with CrossFit gym owners, he instead spewed a nonsensical tirade of conspiracy theories. Days later he was forced to resign.
IBM announced in a letter to Congress that it will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, citing the software as a ‘violation of basic human rights and freedoms.’ This move prompted Amazon and Microsoft to make the same commitment just days later.
And while other companies may still be swimming in the sea of performative gestures, one company stands out for being sincere: Ben & Jerry’s. Their passion was felt through their statement, describing George Floyd’s murder as the result of “inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy.” Their passion was then seen first hand when the two white middle-aged founders were arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest march.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have a long history of political activism. This is not even the first time they have been arrested for protesting, in 2016 they were arrested for protesting against the influence of money in politics and in 2018 for protesting against the military. They both turn 70 next year and are doing a lot more to fight systemic racism than white people half their age.
So what happens now?
The positives outcomes listed above are a direct result of protesting, petitioning, and fundraising. While these moments are worthy of celebrating and will hopefully go down in history as key turning points in the fight against white supremacy, there is still so much to be done.
Many white people are finally waking up to the social injustices, systematic racism and police brutality experienced by black people and people of colour all over the world. But as the coverage in the mainstream media dies down and the hashtags stop trending, we must keep reading, keep learning and above all keep listening. Keep listening to people like Haile Thomas as they share their experiences with white fragility. Keep listening to people like Leona Lewis as they share their experiences with racial profiling. Keep listening to people like Brittany Payton as they share their experiences with overt racism in their daily lives.
Important petitions you must sign:
Justice for Breonna Taylor (USA) Woman killed by police who stormed the wrong apartment while she was asleep in bed. Even though a new law has been passed in her name, her killers have still not been charged.
Justice for Emerald Black (USA) A pregnant woman who was pulled from her car by police officers and had her stomach stomped on, causing her to miscarry.
Justice for Belly Mujinga (UK) An railway worker targeted in a hate crime and spat on by a person who knowingly had coronavirus. She later died from the virus.
Justice for Shukri Abdi (UK) A 12 year old victim of bullying found drowned in a river. Death ruled accidental with no investigation into the school, which has a history of bullying.
Justice for Tamla Horsford (USA) A woman found dead after a sleepover, whose death was quickly ruled an accident but is surrounded in suspicion with a lot of unanswered questions.
Justice for Julius Jones (USA) An innocent man on death row for a crime he did not commit.
A comprehensive list of USA petition links can be found here.