In the following analysis, we review the series of movements that led to the uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd, explore the factors that made the uprising so powerful, discuss the threats facing it, and conclude with a series of accounts from participants in Minneapolis, New York City, Richmond, Grand Rapids, Austin, Seattle, and elsewhere around the country.
Throughout this article, we have only used photographs that are already widely available online, in order to avoid inadvertently providing sensitive information to the police.
Let us not resent those who get out of hand for reminding us of the conflicts that remain unresolved in our society. On the contrary, we should be grateful. They are not disturbing the peace; they are simply bringing to light that there never was any peace, there never was any justice in the first place. At tremendous risk to themselves, they are giving us a gift: a chance to recognize the suffering around us and to rediscover our capacity to identify and sympathize with those who experience it.
For we can only experience tragedies such as the death of Michael Brown for what they are when we see other people responding to them as tragedies. Otherwise, unless the events touch us directly, we remain numb. If you want people to register an injustice, you have to react to it immediately, the way people did in Ferguson. You must not wait for some better moment, not plead with the authorities, not formulate a sound bite for some imagined audience representing public opinion. You must immediately proceed to action, showing that the situation is serious enough to warrant it.
We must begin with a moment of silence—for no revolt, no matter how powerful, not even if it could burn down every police precinct and open up every prison, could ever give life back to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, David McAtee, Rayshard Brooks, or any of the countless other Black people who have been murdered by police since the founding of the United States of America. Uprisings like the one that began in Minneapolis are a way of attempting to discourage the police from committing future murders, but they are also expressions of grief for the irreparable losses that have already taken place.