Another life was tragically lost to systemic racism last week.
In Minneapolis, Minn., 46-year-old George Floyd was about to return home from the grocery store when police officers approached his vehicle, asked him to step out of the car and placed him under arrest. Floyd was like many other Americans at this time: He had lost his job due to the pandemic and was searching for a new one. He moved from his hometown of Houston to Minneapolis in 2014 to start a new life for himself with a few friends, according to his closest friend Christopher Harris. His life was cut short on May 25 by officer Derek Chauvin and three other police officials. Outside of his car, Floyd was restrained by officer Chauvin through a knee-to-neck restraint — a legal practice of “non-deadly” force within the Minneapolis Police Department, despite the opposition of many experts.
Floyd was held in this suppressive position for a total of eight minutes and 46 seconds, including the two minutes and 53 seconds that he was unresponsive and continued to be restrained by the police. Crying out the words “I can’t breathe” among other pleas, it was then that George Floyd died.
After his death became known to the community, protests began the next day in Minneapolis and quickly spread across the country in the days following — some peaceful, some ending in violence. Multitudes of people seized the moment to speak out against police brutality, to assist the Black Lives Matter movement and to support those who wanted justice for Floyd.
This egregious incident is nothing new within the Minneapolis area; it echoes a situation from 10 years prior, in which the Minneapolis Police Department paid $3 million to settle a case over the death of a 28-year-old black man who died from similar circumstances as Floyd. Multiple instances indicate a pattern and reveal terrifying truths about American law enforcement.
On Monday, Floyd’s brother, Terrance, spoke in front of a crowd that had gathered at the memorial site and pleaded with those gathered for peace. He implored them to vote for the change they want to see and to educate themselves, saying, “In every case of police brutality, the same thing has been happening. Y’all protest, y’all destroy stuff… let’s do this another way.”
In Philadelphia, we’ve seen the impact of these events through peaceful protests, such as Tuesday’s fourth consecutive march from Center City to West Philadelphia and Fishtown. There were also non-peaceful protests, such as conflicts with local law enforcement and store raids in Center City particularly, with shops between 15th and 18th Streets being ransacked all along Chestnut and Walnut Streets. Eerily, the row of stores are all boarded-up, as if preparing for a natural disaster.
Closer to campus, we recently experienced the unexpected occupation of the Armory at Drexel as the center of operations for the National Guard in Philadelphia. Their arrival was unbeknownst to students and was an unsettling sight, especially when student housing is just a block away. While it seemed that the university was contradicting their previous sentiments of support for the protests by hosting a group ostensibly there to settle crowds with force, a later email from President John Fry informed the student body that Armory is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that the university has no power over or affiliation with the National Guard’s arrival.
There are numerous ways that you can help the Black Lives Matter movement if you choose to. You can support local black-owned businesses, sign petitions online, donate to organizations that advocate for change, watch YouTube videos for which creators donate ad revenue or simply have tough but necessary conversations with friends and family. No matter the scale, all of these avenues will bring us closer to the change that we need to see and raise awareness on how everyone can be involved.
If you’re looking to go out and protest during this crazy time, be sure to bring the following essentials: a backpack that will let you keep your hands free, a face mask (since the coronavirus is still a threat), hand sanitizer to keep yourself clean while being surrounded by other protesters, water to stay hydrated, an insurance card or documentation for medical professionals and a list of emergency contact numbers in case anything happens while you’re there.
If you need to document what’s happening around you, we recommend making sure other protestors can’t be clearly identified and incriminated. If you choose to post these pictures on social media, you may want to blur or cover faces and other key identifying features, such as tattoos. Turning your footage over to a reputable activist group may also be more effective and safe than posting it on your personal account. Your recording could be valuable evidence in court, so try to make it count. Lawyers, especially those prosecuting police malpractice, recommend recording the time (on someone else’s phone or on a watch) and the location (clear landmarks or street signs). It’s important to record horizontally to acquire a better sense of space and scale while keeping the camera steady with the action in the center of the screen.
Aim to become an anti-racist. Being “not racist” is not equivalent to anti-racism, and it isn’t enough. Anti-racism is a form of allyship in which wrongful words, beliefs, actions or structures are called out whenever they occur, whether the time is “convenient” or not. By means mentioned prior, we can bring about the change we hope to see and commit to active participation in taking a stand against racial injustice.
American writer Ijeoma Oluo sums up this call to action very well, saying that “the beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism where you find it, including in yourself. And that’s the only way forward.”
This should be a time when we, as Americans, should truly band together to stop racial injustice in our country by educating ourselves and those around us. Now is the time to make sure that these issues are continued to be discussed long after this specific topic stops “trending.”
At The Triangle, we understand that it is our role and responsibility to represent and act as one of the many voices for the expansive Drexel student population. As such, we are a platform for your opinions to be voiced to the community. We frequently accept guest writing submissions and act as a non-biased platform. So, if you are experiencing any injustices or feel that you are not being heard, we want to hear about it — we want to amplify your voice and we want to help you enact the change.
As a publication that is typically objective, we often refrain from taking a stance on issues of political matter; this is an issue not of politics but of humanity. Our office stands with Black Lives Matter and encourages others to do everything they can to amplify the message of this movement.