Powerful Moments of Peace, Unity, and Hope from Black Lives Matter Protests
Peaceful protesters are cleaning the streets, treating the injured, and providing other demonstrators and police officers alike with essential supplies to help keep everyone safe.
In the past week, people from all 50 states have taken part in protests denouncing systemic racism and police brutality in response to the deaths of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died after a white police officer forced his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes; Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot by police officers in her own home; Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who died after two white men pursued him in a truck and shot him while he was jogging; and so, so, so many others.
While these demonstrations were no doubt ignited by these recent killings, they've grown into a collective expression of outrage over centuries of injustices against the Black community in the U.S. (Related: How Racism Affects Your Mental Health)
Most of these protests have been peaceful; community organizers focus on setting up non-violent demonstrations such as marches, sit-ins, and candlelight vigils. But, unfortunately, clashes between police and protesters and the violence that can ensue often dominate headlines, along with videos of people vandalizing property and stealing from stores.
The spotlight on these violent and damaging events is not only drowning out a key message behind these historical protests—that oppression and violence against Black people must not be tolerated—it's also overshadowing the powerful, uplifting moments that are bringing people of all backgrounds together. Here are just a handful of those moments that deserve to be acknowledged too.
George Floyd's family is gathering with peaceful protesters to speak out against violent demonstrations.
On June 1, one of Floyd's brothers, Terrence made his first trip to the spot where George was killed. Terrence asked peaceful protesters gathered there that day to "keep his brother's name ringing," and implored anyone engaging in violent acts and vandalization to stop, reports CNN. "[Violence] is not going to bring my brother back at all," said Terrence, addressing the crowd. "My family is a peaceful family. My brother would not want you all to [be violent]."
Another video, shared by George's longtime friend and retired NBA player Stephen Jackson, shows Jackson holding George's 6-year-old daughter, Gianna on his shoulder as she says, "Daddy changed the world!"
Volunteers are cleaning up streets across the country.
Some cities have hired crews to clean up after protests. But many have seen hundreds of volunteers stepping up to help with the effort.
ABC News journalist, Christie Ileto took to Twitter to share that "an army of volunteers" were seen cleaning up after a protest in Center City and Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. "The healing process has begun," she shared. "Peaceful protests splintered off into violence [last night]. This morning we're seeing the best of Philly!"
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Michigan also took to Twitter to praise clean-up volunteers. "My heart is lifted as I make my way through downtown with hundreds of people helping clean up our city," she wrote. "This is our Grand Rapids."
Meanwhile, people in Scottsdale, Arizona showed up with cleaning equipment the morning after a protest to help pick up trash. Even people from outside of Scottsdale came to the area to aid the efforts, according to CBS News affiliate, Arizona Family.
Volunteers in Buffalo, New York also gathered "just minutes after the curfew ended" to begin cleaning, News 4 Buffalo WIVB reporter Christy Kern shared on Facebook.
Protesters are providing essential supplies to each other and police officers.
On the streets of Columbus, Ohio runners and cyclists have been taking bags of first-aid kits, water, Gatorade, masks, and earplugs to protesters in need, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Others are holding up signs offering free masks and gloves while marching amid large crowds. Many videos also show protesters giving police officers water bottles to help them stay hydrated.
Volunteer medics are treating the injured.
Groups of medical volunteers with basic first-aid training—including healthcare workers who've just gotten off long shifts at the hospital—have joined protests around the country to care for the injured. (See: Nurses Are Supporting Injured #BlackLivesMatter Protesters with First Aid Care)
For example, a group of volunteers in Austin, Texas set up shop under a highway overpass to provide medical supplies and first aid. "We're here strictly in a neutral capacity, offering medical help," the group's organizer, Brenton Donnell told Spectrum News. "It doesn't matter who gets injured—if it's a protester or cop—we're gonna pull them aside and we're going to treat them." The volunteer medics treated everything from heat exhaustion and pepper spray burns to rubber bullet wounds, according to the outlet.
Back in Denver, volunteers identified by red crosses on their clothing have been working to treat hundreds of injured protesters. "The Hippocratic oath that you take in the medical industry really follows you throughout your life and you are sometimes presented with those moments where you can step up and help people or just work a job," one volunteer, Ari Noorazi, told CBS Denver.
A line of white protesters in Louisville, Kentucky formed a symbolic shield of protection for Black protesters.
An image captured by photographer Tim Druck has gone viral for showing dozens of white protesters lined up arm-in-arm to form a human shield between Black protesters and Louisville Metro Police officers. The group was a part of a protest for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by Louisville police officers after they entered her home with a no-knock warrant and shot her while she was still in bed.
Chanelle Helm, the lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Louisville, encouraged white protesters to "use their privilege and put their bodies between police and the other demonstrators," Druck told the Courier-Journal. "If you are going to be here, you should defend this space," Helm told them, according to Druck's account.
"And people responded. They didn't need to be convinced," Druck told the Courier-Journal. "Everybody willingly and enthusiastically did it."
A man in Washington, D.C. offered shelter to protesters attacked by police.
When police began arresting peaceful demonstrators at a protest in D.C., chaos ensued, causing people to flee to find shelter. After seeing officers douse people with pepper spray right outside his home, Rahul Dubey offered shelter to roughly 60 protesters, according to NBC Washington. The protesters were seen emerging from Dubey's three-story home the following morning at 6 a.m. once the citywide curfew expired, the news outlet reported. They were seen clapping as they left the house, thanking Dubey for his support.
Restaurants are supporting protesters by providing free food, water, face masks, and first-aid supplies.
The food and beverage industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On top of that, restaurants in at least 140 cities around the U.S. have now been vandalized, and sometimes burned as a result of some demonstrations, the New York Times reports. Despite their mounting struggles, restaurant owners are supporting peaceful protesters by providing them with free food and hydration.
For instance, Maria Acosta, who owns and operates nine McDonald's restaurants around San Antonio, Texas, packed about 800 meals of chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and apples to feed volunteer clean-up crews, according to the NYT.
Meanwhile, just blocks from where George Floyd was killed, the owners of Pimento Jamaican Kitchen in Minneapolis provided supplies to protesters, including to-go bags with gloves, face masks, face shields, eyewash kits, and gauze, according to the NYT. "If people are going to be out, people have the right to demonstrate," Scott McDonald, a manager at Pimento, told the publication. "If that's what you are going to do and you're going to exercise that right, do it as safely as possible."
Police officers are joining protesters and offerings signs of support.
Despite the fact that tensions have occasionally escalated between police and protesters, some law enforcement workers are choosing to show solidarity with demonstrators. A viral video of Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson from Michigan, for instance, shows him removing his riot gear to march with protesters.
"We want to be with y'all, for real," Swanson said, addressing the demonstrators. "I took the helmet off and we laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest."
In Virginia, Norfolk Police Chief, Larry Boone also joined protesters in his area, holding a Black Lives Matter sign during a march.
Groups of police officers in cities including Boston, New York, Des Moines, and Miami took the knee alongside protesters to offer their support. Some officers even embraced emotional protesters to hug and comfort them.
"We're here with you," an officer in Shreveport, Louisiana is heard saying to a crying protester in one video. "We're all here together."