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Protests against the brutal murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis Police officers continued across the U.S. throughout the weekend. The protests were peaceful but were met by violent responses from local and state governments, from police in riot gear to members of the National Guard.
The epicenter of the nationwide protests, Minneapolis protesters continue to demand justice in Floyd’s murder by police. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who dug his knee into Floyd’s neck during his arrest, was charged on May 29 with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He is set to make his first court appearance on June 8.
The remaining three officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired from Minneapolis, but have yet to be charged.
On May 31, a truck driver was arrested after he drove through a crowd of protesters on 1-35W in Minneapolis. Bogdan Vechirko, who was booked into Hennepin County Jail, was being held on probable cause assault, KSTP reported. Vechirko, 35, was not formally charged as of June 1.
Ken Advantage, the trucking company Vechirko worked as an independent contractor for, released a statement on the incident on Sunday night. “Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this past week,” the statement said. The company said that it would cooperate with any investigation.
Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington claimed on Monday that it did not appear the driver intentionally drove through protesters. Harrington said that Vechirko likely “saw the crowd and he panicked.” The driver allegedly hit his breaks after seeing a woman riding a bicycle fall down.
An independent autopsy report released by Floyd’s family on June 1 revealed the 46-year-old died of “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.” The report directly contradicts a preliminary report released by the medical examiner that claimed Floyd did not die of asphyxia.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office also released initial findings of their autopsy on June 1. That autopsy declared Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by “a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” according to ABC News.
Peaceful protests continued in Atlanta over the weekend and through Monday, despite the city imposing a curfew that has been extended to sunrise on June 2. The protests extended beyond Atlanta metro and across Georgia. According to WSB-TV, a group in Marietta, Georgia, marched to Marietta Square with the assistance of local police.
Despite the peaceful nature of the protests in Atlanta, there have been several incidents involving police. Two Atlanta Police Department officers were fired after video showed them using “excessive force” against two college students during the protests on the night of May 30, CNN reported.
The officers were filmed breaking the windows of the car, pulling Spelman College student Taniyah Pilgrim out of the car and tasing her friend, Morehouse College student Messiah Young. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered charges against Young be dropped.
What began as peaceful protests in Boston ended violently when the National Guard were called on demonstrators who stayed later into the evening. Thousands marched from Nubian Square in Roxbury to the State House in downtown Boston chanting “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
According to Boston Magazine, a peaceful demonstration was organized by a group called Black Boston. The demonstration, held in front of the State House, continued until around 8:30 p.m.
However, Boston Police claimed protesters threw frozen water bottles, bricks and rocks at officers at Winter and Washington streets by 9:30 p.m., MassLive reported. Other reported acts of violence against officers happened on Tremont Street.
By 10:30 p.m. authorities were ordering crowds at Boston Common and Downtown Crossing to disperse. The only problem? The city’s public transportation system, the MBTA or T as it is locally known, was shut down. The T began by shutting down service directly affecting stops at the protest and then continued throughout the city.
Protesters told local media that the decision to shut down the subway system as protesters looked to leave the downtown area not only trapped them in the area but helped escalate tensions between protesters and police.
“People were trapped in the area for much longer than they would have been otherwise,” protester Aislinn Brophy told Boston Business Journal. “We had a car and we still had to walk several miles in the dark to get back to it.”
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo confirmed that law enforcement made the decision to shut down certain T stops.
Shortly after 11 p.m., reports began appearing on Twitter that the National Guard had been called in. Police arrested at least 40 people by early June 1, according to police.
Some of the most violent scenes were seen in New York City, where police were filmed beating protesters, ramming their cars into people and other brutal acts of violence. Several videos circulating social media showed NYPD officers brutally beating and macing protesters and reporters.
One video showed an officer violently shoving a female protester to the ground in Brooklyn. The young woman, who identified herself as Dounya Zayer, suffered a seizure after hitting her head and was taken to the hospital, WABC-TV reported. She said the officer threw her phone before throwing her.
Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the officer’s actions and said the consequences would be “visible and swift.” De Blasio, whose daughter was also arrested while protesting over the weekend, added, “That does not reflect our values, that is unacceptable. The NYPD has to do better. We cannot see a video like that. There is no reason for a video like that and it corrodes trust.”
However, De Blasio was quick to defend the NYPD when footage emerged of a police vehicle driving into protesters at a separate event. He said it was inappropriate for protesters to surround the police vehicle and threaten officers.
“It’s clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles,” the mayor said, according to CBS New York. “And if a police officer is in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.”
How to Help
- Follow @bailfundnetwork on Twitter for the latest information on which bail funds need funds now. A full list of bail funds for protestors is available here.
- Other important organizations to donate to include: George Floyd Memorial Fund, I Run With Maud Fund, Justice for Breonna Taylor Petition and Fundraiser, Free Black Mamas, Sisters Unchained and Unicorn Riot.
At the end of each story about the Black Lives Matter protests occurring around the country, we will share the following information on how best to protect yourself:
Protecting Yourself From Tear Gas
- Before being exposed: Do not wear contact lenses or makeup. This could trap the tear gas on your skin and eyes. Try to wear protective goggles if possible. Remember to wear a mask, which you should already be wearing to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect as much of your skin as possible.
- If exposed: Get yourself out of the area immediately. The CDC recommends seeking higher ground as most Riot Control Agents (RCAs) are heavier than air.
- Clothing: The RCAs will have contaminated your clothing, be sure to remove the clothes as soon as possible and discard. Clothing that needs to be removed over the head should be cut instead. The CDC recommends wearing rubber gloves and putting the contaminated clothes in a bag and then seal that bag in another bag.
- Exposed Skin: The International News Safety Institute recommends washing with soap and water. First, shower in cold water and then in warm water. Do not bathe. Wash your face as soon as you can, but do not rub the skin as you don’t want to activate the powder in tear gas. Do not rinse your eyes and face with milk, instead use water.
Protecting Yourself: Technology Edition
- Smartphone: Smartphones can easily give out information that police can later use against protesters. Turn off your location data and remove facial and fingerprint recognition. If you need to communicate with friends or family, be sure to download and use the Signal app, which encrypts messages. WIRED recommends Android users head to Settings, then Security and make sure the Encrypt Disk option is selected.
- Social Media: Do not post photos or videos with geotags and consider blurring the faces of protesters when sharing information on social media.
- Police Conduct App: The ACLU has created the Mobile Justice app to record police conduct. You can learn more about the app here.
- Identifying Clothing or Tattoos: It is highly recommended you wear clothing that is not easily identifiable. Be sure to cover any tattoos that can be used by law enforcement to identify you.
- In Case You’re Arrested: Write the number down of a lawyer, organization or friend/family member that you can call if you’re arrested on your skin. Be sure to have a form of ID in your pocket.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.