WS students participate in peaceful protests in the Black Lives Matter movement

Demonstrators+during+the+Black+Lives+Matter+protest+at+the+Charles+Houston+Recreation+Center+in+Alexandria+on+June+5th.+Hundreds+of+protests+have+been+organized+around+the+country+calling+for+racial+equality+in+the+past+few+weeks+as+a+part+of+the+Black+Lives+Matter+movement.+%0A%0A

Courtesy of Jaleiha Hammond

Demonstrators during the Black Lives Matter protest at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria on June 5th. Hundreds of protests have been organized around the country calling for racial equality in the past few weeks as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sumaya Zahid, News Editor

Nationwide protests and calls for racial equalityscenes from the civil rights movement have become a reality once again. 

George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was murdered while under arrest, as a white police officer pressed his knee down on Floyd’s neck and held it for several minutes, despite the victim’s plea of “I can’t breath.” 

After footage of Floyd’s death went viral, it sparked an outburst of protests around the country and world, with calls for racial equality ringing louder than ever. The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) has quickly coalesced into continuous vocal protests that have swept the country, as they have been organized and attended every day since May 30th.

Senior Ciyanne Zewdie, who attended two peaceful protests, one in front of the White House on June 2nd, believes that these protests are a powerful means for societal change. 

“I think it’s extremely important, especially for our generation, to participate because we’re gonna be the future of this country,” said Zewdie. “Growing up, I had to see people who looked like me on the news after they were killed by the police and it hurt more and more every time, and I know I don’t want my future kids growing up having to worry about this too.”

Many police officers have come under strong criticism for their actions during the protests, as videos have been shared on social media of police officers violently attacking or running over demonstrators with police vehicles. Although this is the case with some demonstrations, there have also been multiple cases in which the police have supported and stood with the protesters. 

“During the protest, the police were speaking up rather than harassing the protesters,” said senior Jaleiha Hammond, who attended a local peaceful BLM protest at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria on June 5th.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who had placed his knee on Floyd’s neck, was initially charged with 3rd degree murder, which was then changed to a more serious 2nd degree murder charge. The three other officers with him were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“I think the current charges are acceptable for now. They need to be able to hold up in front of a jury and these are probably the most extreme we can get before prosecutors have troubles with the case,” said sophomore Emily Hemlinger. “I think a more important consequence should be ensuring these men can never gain positions of power in the police force again.”

Protesters are speaking out about the fact that inequality and violence against the black community traces back much farther than the recent murders of Floyd and other African Americans such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“This is about standing up for what’s right and not for a person to be brutally murdered and dehumanized in broad daylight based on the color of their skin,” said Hammond. “This has been an issue since 1492 when the white supremacy entered the United States of America.”

Despite continued racism and restrictions placed on protests, such as multiple state curfews, protesters remain hopeful that the BLM movement will bring about the change they want to see. 

“This isn’t just about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery. This is about the numerous black lives this country’s law enforcement has taken from us, and the very real racism and modern day oppression black people face to this day. This is not the time to remain neutral, try to not get political, or say ‘it doesn’t affect me’. It affects all of us,” said Zewdie. “This is not a political fight, this is a fight for equality and basic human rights. All of us need to do everything we can to help out our brothers and sisters in this country. They need our help now more than ever.”