In the early 1980’s, I was involved in the Nuclear Freeze movement. In a meeting of some 12 people at someone’s house, a guest speaker came—Daniel Ellsberg! Of Pentagon Papers fame! He told an inspiring and surprising story about the importance of organized protest and resistance.
In 1969, there was a March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. (I was there!)
Many years later, Daniel Ellsberg talked to one of the organizers of that and other marches and asked him if he thought those efforts made a difference. “None at all,” the man replied. And then Mr. Ellsberg said, “Well, here’s something you didn’t know. Around that time of the March, Nixon was making plans to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. When the protest started, Nixon told reporters he was going to his office to watch the football game. But instead he looked out the window and saw the massive crowds and decided that his plan would be too unpopular at this time. Hardly anyone knew the impact that the march made—in fact, averting would might have become the beginning of a nuclear holocaust. They thought Nixon was watching football. But their presence that day in Washington made an enormous difference.
Now fast-forward to today. Someone posted the following on Facebook and I was stunned. It is irrefutable proof that it matters to speak up, especially speaking up on behalf of compassion, justice and human decency. (Protestors mad because they couldn’t get haircuts also spoke up, but that’s not exactly the deep healing the world needs.) Next time you’re wondering if it’s worth your time and effort to write that letter, call that Congressperson, take to the streets, consider this extraordinary response:
So what has protesting accomplished in the last 10 days?
Within 10 days of sustained protests:
Minneapolis bans use of choke holds.
Charges are upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and his accomplices are arrested and charged.
Dallas adopts a "duty to intervene" rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force.
New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades.
In Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.
Los Angeles City Council introduces motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
MBTA in Boston agrees to stop using public buses to transport police officers to protests.
Police brutality captured on cameras leads to near-immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities (i.e., Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale).
Monuments celebrating confederates are removed in cities in Virginia, Alabama, and other states.
Street in front of the White House is renamed "Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Military forces begin to withdraw from D.C.
Then, there's all the other stuff that's hard to measure:
The really difficult public and private conversations that are happening about race and privilege.
The realizations some white people are coming to about racism and the role of policing in this country.
The internal battles exploding within organizations over issues that have been simmering or ignored for a long time. Some organizations will end as a result, others will be forever changed or replaced with something stronger and fairer.
Protests against racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd are taking place all over the world.
Rallies and memorials have been held in cities across Europe, as well as in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
As the US contends with its second week of protests, issues of racism, police brutality, and oppression have been brought to light across the globe.
People all over the world understand that their own fights for human rights, for equality and fairness, will become so much more difficult to win if we are going to lose America as the place where 'I have a dream' is a real and universal political program," Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the US, told the New Yorker.
In France, protesters marched holding signs that said "I can't breathe" to signify both the words of Floyd, and the last words of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who was subdued by police officers and gasped the sentence before he died outside Paris in 2016.
Cities across Europe have come together after the death of George Floyd:
In Amsterdam, an estimated 10,000 people filled the Dam square on Monday, holding signs and shouting popular chants like "Black lives matter," and "No justice, no peace."
In Germany, people gathered in multiple locations throughout Berlin to demand justice for Floyd and fight against police brutality.
A mural dedicated to Floyd was also spray-painted on a stretch of wall in Berlin that once divided the German capital during the Cold War.
In Ireland, protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside of Belfast City Hall, and others gathered outside of the US embassy in Dublin.
In Italy, protesters gathered and marched with signs that said "Stop killing black people," "Say his name," and "We will not be silent."
In Spain, people gathered to march and hold up signs throughout Barcelona and Madrid.
In Athens, Greece, protesters took to the streets to collectively hold up a sign that read "I can't breathe."
In Brussels, protesters were seen sitting in a peaceful demonstration in front of an opera house in the center of the city.
In Denmark, protesters were heard chanting "No justice, no peace!" throughout the streets of Copenhagen, while others gathered outside the US embassy.
In Canada, protesters were also grieving for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old black woman who died on Wednesday after falling from her balcony during a police investigation at her building.
And in New Zealand, roughly 2,000 people marched to the US embassy in Auckland, chanting and carrying signs demanding justice.
Memorials have been built for Floyd around the world, too. In Mexico City, portraits of him were hung outside the US embassy with roses, candles, and signs.
In Poland, candles and flowers were laid out next to photos of Floyd outside the US consulate.
And in Syria, two artists created a mural depicting Floyd in the northwestern town of Binnish, "on a wall destroyed by military planes."
Before the murder of George Floyd some of you were able to say whatever the hell you wanted and the world didn't say anything to you...
Don't wake up tomorrow on the wrong side of this issue. It’s not too late to SAY:
"Maybe I need to look at this from a different perspective."
"Maybe I don't know what it’s like to be black in America..."
"Maybe, just maybe, I have been taught wrong."
There is still so much work to be done. It's been a really dark, raw week. This could still end badly. But all we can do is keep doing the work. Keep protesting.
WE ARE NOT TRYING TO START A RACE WAR; WE ARE PROTESTING TO END IT,
PEACEFULLY. How beautiful is that?
ALL LIVES CANNOT MATTER UNTIL YOU INCLUDE BLACK LIVES.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN YOU DO NOTHING TO STOP SYSTEMIC RACISM & POLICE BRUTALITY.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN BLACK PEOPLE ARE DYING AND ALL YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT IS THE LOOTING.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN YOU ALLOW CHILDREN TO BE CAGED, VETERANS TO GO HOMELESS, AND POOR FAMILIES TO GO HUNGRY & LOSE THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE.
DO ALL LIVES MATTER? YES. BUT RIGHT NOW, ONLY BLACK LIVES ARE BEING TARGETED, JAILED, AND KILLED EN MASSE- SO THAT'S WHO WE'RE FOCUSING ON.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
IF YOU CAN'T SEE THIS, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.