To connect COVID-19 with Black Lives Matter in Nebraska, this essay will focus on the George Floyd protests that occurred around May-June 2020 in the Lincoln area. This reading is accessible through the ENGL 477 discussion for the class. It is from an outsider perspective recalling the events of the protests through the newspapers.
On May 29 through the 31st of 2020, protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement sparked after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis due to a police officer kneeling on his neck. The organizers held out signs stating, “white silence is violence,” “end white terrorism,” and “justice for George Floyd” to show solidarity for Floyd, his family, and for racism to stop (Pitsch 2020). However, the protest became violent after the Lincoln police with the Nebraska State Patrol used rubber bullets and tear gas on the protesters who were gathered around the busiest intersection in Lincoln. Around nine reports of vandalism, three people arrested, and one woman was injured after being ran over by a vehicle. Chief Jeff Bliemeister states that “we shouldn’t let the violent actions of a very small group of people in Lincoln detract from the overall message…[the violence and destruction] becomes the focus. Not the murder of George Floyd” (Wan and Pilger 2020). One protestor, Dominique Liu-Sang, describes her experience with the demonstrators in the crowd. She states that the protestors were scared with no weapons on their backs, and that they were “more apt to voice our anger and concern, but they weren’t being violent. They weren’t throwing anything. They were just peacefully protesting” (Kelly 2020).
These protests occurred simultaneously alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of staying isolated to avoid the spread, the protestors risked their lives and the lives around them to stand up for an issue they cared deeply about. The issue becomes complicated as the line between safe pandemic procedures and the right to protest blurs with conflict of interest. For these protestors, finding justice for George Floyd outweighed the risk of spreading the disease. In response to the protests around the Lincoln area, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Barid remarks that the “idea that folks (who) have important messages that they should get out, and that their voices need to be heard, may be subjecting themselves to further threats is absolutely painful for all of us to consider” (Basnet 2020). The Mayor encouraged protesters to continue to wear masks and keep their distance between each other to stay safe.
Regarding the readings for this week, focusing on Black Lives Matter protestors is a part of the field of Black studies. Within the “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” reading, Gallon describes Black studies as the “comparative study of the black cultural and social experiences under white Eurocentric systems of power in the United States” (Gallon 2016). For these protestors, the Black Lives Matter movement represents need for change in the system to stop oppression against the African American community and a need for the police system to be overhauled.
Basnett, Chris. “Watch Now: Potential COVID-19 Spike a Concern as Protests Continue, Lincoln Mayor Says.” JournalStar.com, August 3, 2020. https://journalstar.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/watch-now-potential-covid-19-spike-a-concern-as-protests-continue-lincoln-mayor-says/article_19ca8e35-e959-5d18-886b-18d77f9db6c0.html.
Gallon, Kim. “Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016: 4. Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, 2016. https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled/section/fa10e2e1-0c3d-4519-a958-d823aac989eb (Links to an external site.).
Kelly, Bill. “Arrest in Lincoln Will Not Deter Black Lives Matter Protester.” netnebraska.org, June 23, 2020. http://netnebraska.org/article/news/1225280/arrest-lincoln-will-not-deter-black-lives-matter-protester.
Pitsch, Madison. “Protesters in Lincoln Show Solidarity with George Floyd.” https://www.1011now.com, 2020. https://www.1011now.com/content/news/George-Floyd-Protests–570878351.html.
Wan, Justin, and Lori Pilger. “WATCH NOW: City Officials Call for Calm after Protest in Lincoln Turns Violent Overnight.” JournalStar.com, July 9, 2020. https://journalstar.com/news/local/protest-in-lincoln-turns-violent-overnight/article_c2e6fdcf-fc58-5786-9c31-68ee2c364e23.html.