George Floyd, known to friends and family as ‘Big Floyd’ and ‘Gentle Giant’, died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Over the last week, there have been thousands of people in the streets in protest. They want to bring awareness to and condemn institutional racism and police violence throughout the United States.
How rioting and looting has affected cities
Unfortunately, accompanying the peaceful protests are a group of people who chose to use this opportunity to riot and loot. Their actions are really taking away from the meaning of the protests and tarnishing the memory of George Floyd. Looters have cleared out stores in Lower Manhattan, Minneapolis, and boutiques in Los Angeles.
Breaking windows, burning property, and stealing goods makes other people hesitant to join and give their full support to protestors. While people gather to protest for different reasons, those who gather peacefully tend to stay peaceful. Often, the rioters and looters travel to different areas and take advantage of unease to cause more pain and destruction and to avoid doing any harm to their own neighborhoods. As more rioting and looting take place, the focus will be placed more on the violence and destruction caused and take attention away from the meaning of the peaceful protests.
Peaceful protestors in Minneapolis are criticizing the looting and violence. They want to disassociate the looter’s actions from George’s memory. The types of protests being done in George Floyd’s name are peaceful; they’re only trying to have their voice heard. Police, media, and even other protestors may inadvertently encourage rioting and looting.
The actions of the police and protestors often mirror each other. When police use rubber bullets, flash bombs, and pepper spray on peaceful protestors, protestors are also stimulated into aggression, opening the door to looting and rioting. Over this past weekend, we saw New York police drive SUV’s through protestors while seemingly taking a hands-off approach to looters.
The impact of media
The media fuels looting by covering it extensively and by interviewing looters instead of peaceful protestors. To gather attention, some protestors will break windows just to get the media’s attention. While looting is a side effect of protests, it cannot be allowed to change the message that the peaceful protesters want to send.
Peaceful protests are meant as a release for people who have been ignored or kept silent; to capture attention, to have an impact, or in this case to reveal simmering and unacknowledged rage. What everyone needs to do is focus on the message of the protesters, which is that change must come. We hope that change will start to address the rage that has been running so deep that it can lead to senseless violence.