Protesting in a pandemic

Eye-opening journey took me on a path to helping make a change


Carlee Smith, Reporter

Before June 13 I never knew how long 8 minutes and 46 seconds was.

I didn’t realize how painfully long that amount of time could be until I sat in silence for it. Eight minutes and 46 seconds was the amount of time former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, murdering him in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The murder of George Floyd is what sparked the Black Lives Matter movement to start protesting, despite the pandemic. But let’s go back to when I decided to get involved.

The beginning  

On the popular app Tik Tok Black creators’ videos were getting shadow banned, taken down, and not boosted by the algorithm for no reason anyone could detect but race. A couple of popular Black creators organized a Tik Tok blackout on May 19, 2020. The requirements for the blackout were only Black creators should post that day, you should only like Black creators’ posts, follow at least one new Black creator, change your profile picture to the Black power fist, and comment different BLM phrases under videos. That was very eye-opening to me and many Tik Tok viewers — seeing how little Black creators they have on there for you page on a regular day compared to during the blackout and how a lot of big creators didn’t care about the blackout.  

Then, on May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black male was murdered in the streets. The police were called because he allegedly tried to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill; this claim was later proven false. Former officer Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd and bystanders yelled out for him to stop. Chauvin never lifted his knee until minutes after Floyd was murdered, making Floyd’s final words “I can’t breathe.” Paramedics were called and Floyd was pronounced dead at 9:25 pm that evening.

The next day the case was all over the news and social media; people were outraged that the officer wasn’t fired and charged with murder. I heard about it that morning and was very confused on how he wasn’t charged with murder. This is when everything started up. Protests started in Minnesota but quickly spread across the nation. Petitions started demanding justice for George Floyd, organizations to donate money to Floyd’s family, Black Lives Matter foundations and money to buy supplies for protesters. 

Older cases of Black people being murdered unjustly were brought back up and people started demanding justice for them too. Two other well-known cases brought up in the movement were Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician who was shot by LMPD officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove on March 13, 2020 while she and her boyfriend were asleep in their home. Another popular case brought to light was Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black male who had anemia was placed in a choke hold and injected with Ketamine by the Aurora Police Department, killing him on August 24, 2019. Neither have received justice, it’s the same story for many more similar cases. 

Getting started 

A few weeks went by after Floyd’s death and me discovering all this new information. I had donated, signed many petitions, read about as much as I could, and spread all the information I had on my social media. But I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough, I wanted to get out and help make history. That’s when my friend and I discovered there was a peaceful protest going on the next day in our town, June 7, 2020. We immediately arranged for her dad to take us to the protest. We did research about what to expect and made signs.

That next morning we got ready, packed a bag and headed to the protest. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but excited to help. The protest started in the parking lot of Clarksville High School and we walked nearly three miles, which took about an hour and a half. As we walked we chanted “Black Lives Matter”, “No justice, No peace”, “Say their names”, etc. It was really cool to participate in something like that since I’d never participated in a protest or march. 

Protesting again

After the experience at my first protest and realizing how much it helped, I wanted to do another as soon as possible. I still signed petitions and reposted information but I needed to go to another protest. Conveniently another friend of mine texted a few girls in my group asking if we wanted to go to a peaceful protest with her. Perfect. 

The night before the protest the three of us had a sleepover, we made signs, packed our bags and picked out what to wear. This protest was a blackout so we all dressed in all black. This protest was much longer and expected to be much bigger so I was starting to have some anxiety about going. Eventually my friends reassured me I would be safe and that we needed to do this. No risk no reward, right?

We woke up June 13, 2020 the day of the protest, ready to go. We started at the corner of Spring and Vincennes at 11 a.m. Everyone wore masks and social distance. As we marched police had the roads blocked off so we were safe. After marching for a little bit we stopped at our first stop in front of the city hall. They had a handful of arranged speakers, different black people talking about their experience with racism, police brutality, and why this movement is so important. It was really touching to hear everyone’s story and perspectives on the movement and why it was so important to them. After all the speakers shared their stories we took an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence for George Floyd. Everyone sat on the ground and a few speakers recreated the things he and bystanders called out as former Officer Chauvin kneeled on his neck. That was very impactful to me to see how long he really was struggling for his life. Hearing those speakers yell out “I can’t breathe” and “mama” with so much pain in their voice is something I’ll never forget.

After we participated in that stop we continued to march chanting things like “say their name” “arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor” “no justice no peace, defund the police” and more. After marching for a little longer we stopped at our second stop in front of the Town Clock Church which played a big role in the Underground Railroad. A speaker explained the history behind that church and the Underground Railroad. While we were stopped they also passed out bottles of water.

W continued marching until we arrived at our final stop; they had water, food, coffee, first aid, and a place to register to vote if you hadn’t yet. After we stopped there for a while we finished out our marching until we got back to the beginning of our path. 

The impact

Going to both protests was extremely eye-opening to see part of a town come together and protest for what is right. Although it’s awful we have to protest for equality I’m glad I got to be a part of it and it is amazing to see how many other people are becoming a part too.  Although this is a very important topic I care a lot about, I can never truly understand the struggle people of a different race deal with every day. By sharing my experiences I am in no way trying to speak over Black lives, I hope more than anything that we start to see change!