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The Past And Present Of Protests In America

A journalist is seen bleeding after police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets near the 5th police precinct following a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A journalist is seen bleeding after police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets near the 5th police precinct following a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As protesters demand an end to police brutality, demonstrations continue in cities across the country, while law enforcement and officials disperse crowds and enforce curfews. Amid a national conversation about policing tactics, the protests have led to talks about who gets to protest, how they protest, and the First Amendment.

— Priscilla Thompson (@PriscillaWT) June 2, 2020

In Minneapolis, where former police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, activists  experienced an increasingly militarized police presence along with the deployment of the National Guard. In a viral video, viewers see  law enforcement enforcing curfew in a residential neighborhood before firing paint rounds at residents on their porch.

Meanwhile, damage and destruction swept across the city as building were set on fire and goods were taken by some individuals. But for Mike Griffin, an activist based in Minneapolis, the protests are much deeper and historical than just wanton vandalism or theft.

Here’s what he wrote for NBC:

What I want Americans to realize when they watch those images on TV is that they represent far more than the sum of the flames. Years — decades — of frustration with a society and a system that consistently devalues their lives released with this one act.

For some filmmakers, this is a moment to document what is happening on the ground in addition to watching reports and news coverage about the protests.

In an interview with IndieWire, acclaimed director and documentarian Stanley Nelson talked about that need.

Imagine if there had been no camera on George Floyd. The cameras make all the difference. Our role as documentary filmmakers is to give it context, to give it some kind of history, to go a little bit deeper. The fact that citizens are using their cameras to record these incidents had made a huge change. If people hadn’t recorded the Floyd incident, people would have said he was resisting arrest.

We’ll talk more about the protests in the present, past and how to document what’s happening. We want to hear from you, too. Have been out protesting? What have you seen? Here’s how to reach us.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.