“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Two weeks after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, millions of people around the world watched as America, as well at the world at large, responded to social injustice. With demonstrations across all 50 states and over a dozen countries, people demanded to see change and movement for social justice and peace.
The Death of George Floyd
On May 25, 2020, a 46 year old black male named George Floyd died after a white Minnesota police officer named Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd lay handcuffed on the street. Three other Minnesota police officers were also involved in the incident, standing guard or participating in retraining Floyd. Floyd was approached by law enforcement when a local business reported that Floyd provided them with a counterfeit bill. The county first ruled Floyd’s death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” the second, hired by Floyd’s family, ruled Floyd’s death as asphyxia. In the aftermath of nearly two weeks of protests, all four officers involved in the incident have since been fired and charged with Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s death came on the heels of the release of footage of the death of a 25 year old black male named Ahmaud Arbery, which occurred in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. Arbery was shot and killed by white residents while jogging in his neighborhood. The white residents, Gregory and Travis McMichael, stated that they presumed Arbery to be the suspect of recent neighborhood break-ins. While Arbery was unarmed and out for a jog, the McMichaels chased, shot, and killed him. After rallies, online support, and a petition that received hundreds of thousands of signatures, the McMichaels were arrested nearly three months after the incident and charged with Arbery’s death.
Just after Arbery’s death in February, in March 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, a 26 year old black woman named Breonna Taylor who worked as an emergency room technician was killed by police officers when they entered her apartment in the middle of the night without warning, nor identification, under suspicion of unfounded drug activity. Taylor was shot at least eight times.
In a non-violent encounter in late May 2020, footage from an encounter in Central Park, New York hit the news when a 57 year old black male named Christopher Cooper filmed a white female named Amy Cooper (no relation) calling cops to report that “an African American man [was] threatening [her] life” when Mr. Cooper asked her to put her dog on a leash, as was mandated by park policies.
The climate demanding for change of systemic racism has led to worldwide protests against police brutality and a call for justice for those of the black community.
The day following Floyd’s death, hundreds of protesters gathered in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, in solidarity against police brutality. Over the course of the following days, some of the protests led to looters taking advantage of the situation and vandalizing police vehicles, residences, and businesses. Looters broke into various businesses and removed property from inside the businesses. Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct and a string of buildings and cars were set on fire.
By Wednesday, after Floyd’s death, other cities around the nation organized their own protests, one of the largest being in Los Angeles where hundreds of protesters blocked the freeway and impeded traffic.
Violence and Arrests
Following after Minneapolis, protests across the United States resulted in acts of vandalism and, in some cases, violence.
In New York, one Friday evening, many officers and protesters alike were injured. Protesters struck officers with various items and officers responded with arrests. Los Angeles alone arrested more than 3,000 protesters for reasons ranging from vandalism to failure to disperse. Sacramento saw the arrest of approximately 121 protesters since the start of the demonstrations, just under two weeks ago.
In Oakland, 53 year old Federal Protective Services Dave Patrick Underwood was shot and killed while stationed at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building. According to law enforcement, an individual driving a vehicle pulled up to the Federal Building and began shooting the officers there, injuring one and killing Underwood.
In St. Louis, Missouri, a retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Captain David Dorn was killed while protecting a friend’s pawn shop from looters. A 24 year old man was charged with Dorn’s murder. Popular barbecue owner David McAtee of Louisville, Kentucky was also shot and killed after McAtee fired at the police after they shot pepper balls toward him and his relatives, almost hitting a niece of his.
Vandalism of Local Businesses
Looters took advantage of the protests by breaking into businesses across the United States and stealing property, including in Sacramento.
Some of the downtown Sacramento businesses vandalized include: Mikuni, Pieology, Starbucks, Miosa Bridal, Kicx. Fleet Feet, PF Chang’s, and Tony’s Deli. Tony’s Deli in particular had its location vandalized two nights in a row with the windows smashed, kitchen appliances and safe stolen, the refrigeration system destroyed, and severe water damage. Corporations in the downtown Sacramento area such as Target, BestBuy, O’Reilly Auto Parts, BevMo, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Safeway were also vandalized.
An Elk Grove business, sneaker and apparel store, Phenom, was also targeted. Phenom has sister stores in Minnesota, which will be receiving resources for damages and repairs because they were completely looted, according to the Elk Grove location’s Social Media Director.
For many small businesses, the vandalism could not have occurred at a worse time. Many businesses, already struggling as a result of COVID-19 business shutdowns, are now faced with the decision to rebuild and continue business or close down.
Mayors Call for City Wide Curfews
In response to the looting violence, many cities across the United States enforced curfews. For the capitol of California, City of Sacramento imposed an 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM curfew. This curfew stayed in place for five days. The following day after the curfew was placed, Sacramento County declared a State of Emergency and brought the National Guard to the city to assist local law enforcement with enforcing the city-wide curfew, making California one of the over-twenty states to call on the National Guard for assistance during this time. According to Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg, the curfew ensured that law-abiding citizens remained indoors and allowed for law enforcement to focus on the minority of people defying the orders.
After two nights of looting, Sacramento volunteers and businesses owners got together to clean up the city. Gatherings of volunteers and government officials, like California Governor Gavin Newsom, continued cleaning across the state to assist in the efforts to restore the city after a weekend of vandalism.
PF Chang’s in downtown Sacramento was gearing up to reopen on Wednesday, June 4, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, however, they were looted on Sunday, May 31. Now they must assess the damage to determine if and when they can reopen. PF Chang’s was boarded up and staff got together to paint the boards with messages of encouragement and positivity.
The Future of Protests
“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
With the National Guard and increased law enforcement in various cities, some cities have seen more peaceful protests and a cease to looting and vandalism. In Elk Grove, peaceful protesters continue to meet in locations such as the lawn at the commercial property located near Laguna Boulevard and Big Horn to hold up signs in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Though a peaceful protest was organized and scheduled to occur at the new Elk Grove Aquatics Center this past Saturday, the organizers cancelled the event and encouraged protesters to attend the Sacramento protest at the Golden 1 Center, downtown, organized by the Sacramento branch of the NAACP. The demonstration drew an estimated 15,000 people in protest for justice for George Floyd and other unarmed black lives against police brutality.
The hope is that this time in history will continue and finish the work for justice and equality for black lives in America.