Experts estimate that up to 26 million Americans participated in Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Police brutality victims are, tragically, nothing new. Many activists have been fighting to legislate change, expose systemic bias, and obtain justice for decades.
If you’ve paid any attention to headlines over the last ten years, a disturbing pattern emerges. Black victims of police brutality keep featuring in tragic incidents—over and over. Keep reading to learn more.
Repeating a Tragic Story
We know how the basic story goes. Victims of police brutality are stopped. Sometimes, it’s a minor traffic violation. Sometimes, it’s the case of mistaken identity or a call from a ‘concerned’ neighbor that should never have been made.
The situation escalates from 0-60 in a matter of seconds. Deescalation training? Realizing that someone isn’t armed? Believing someone when they’re choking that they can’t breathe? It often doesn’t happen.
In recent protests, some chants have featured the phrase: “Say His/Her Name.” Repeating the names of police brutality victims is a way of honoring their life, making sure they’re not forgotten, and reminding protestors who they’re fighting for.
It’s also a way of ensuring that their entire life isn’t reduced to how they died. Breonna Taylor, for instance, was an EMT who was excited about having children of her own soon. George Floyd was hoping for better employment opportunities.
He was known as a hard worker, a devoted father, and a loyal husband. He had been married for eight years and was a father to one stepson and three daughters.
Brooks fell asleep while in his car, sitting in the drive-through lane of a fast-food restaurant. Officers were called and conversed with Brooks for more than 40 minutes.
At the end of the night, Brooks had been shot in the back twice.
Out of the names of victims of police brutality, George Floyd might be the most famous. The horrific video of his death sparked an unparalleled racial justice movement.
That’s how everyone talks about his name. But Floyd just wanted to get home safely that day. He had five children and two grandchildren. He was a mentor in his community, a hip-hop artist, and a basketball player.
His life ended after 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck, murdering him. The George Floyd GoFundMe broke records as his story gained traction.
At 26 years old, her life was finally coming together. She had a good job as an EMT, she was getting ready to buy a house, and wanted to start a family with her boyfriend.
Taylor also wanted to go back to school to get a nursing degree.
She was asleep in her bed when plainclothes officers showed up at the wrong house, broke in, and shot her eight times.
At 22 years old, Clark was also getting his life together. That post-high school period is hard for everyone, but Clark had lost his younger brother in a shooting before.
He was a football player, in the middle of turning things around after a few brushes with the law.
When officers mistook the iPhone in his hand for a gun, they fired 20 rounds at him.
He sold CDs and DVDs to make a living. When he was confronted by officers, he was prepared because other CD sellers in Baton Rouge had trouble recently.
At the end of the altercation, Sterling had been pinned to the ground and shot six times.
Remembering Police Brutality Victims
White victims of police brutality aren’t targeted by a system that was built to accuse, suspect, incarcerate, and kill Black people. Remembering the lives of each victim, and rebuilding the broken policing system in the United States, is the best way to honor police brutality victims.
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