Are we witnesses to the birth of a new paradigm? One in which all people are equal? Where there’s not such a disparity between Rich and poor? White and black? Where no college student has to take on debt so enormous that they’ll never be able to buy a place to live?
In this time of instant photos, instant video, instant everything, a Smart Phone video taken by a 17-year-old girl, may be key.
The video of George Floyd’s death clearly shows now fired cop Derek Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck until it killed him. When I first saw the video, several things shocked me: the way Chauvin kept his hand in his pocket, sort of casual, the way he looked at the videographer- the directness of his gaze – and that I was watching a white cop kill an unarmed black man while three other cops stood nearby, watching.
During the news tour tonight of various cities where protesters were out I recognized Lafayette Park. In 1970, I was there for a huge protest against the war in Vietnam. We slept in that park. I remember someone handing out tubes of Vaseline and advising us to smear it all over our faces to protect ourselves against tear gas. I remember being really uncomfortable sleeping on the ground and worrying that we might be gassed during the night. I also remember thinking that Vaseline wouldn’t work since I’d have to rub it in my eyes and inside my nose and mouth to be protected.
Interestingly, Rob was also at that protest but got to sleep in a real bed that night above a bookstore where some protesters had gathered. Our paths didn’t cross.
Protest is our first amendment right.We protest against situations — war, inequality, discrimination, a rigged system, sanctions against and invasions of foreign countries. The idea with democracy is founded on certain rights and many of them have been trashed during this administration.
It’s not as if the murder of George Floyd by a white cop is anything new. But because a Smart Phone captured it on video, because that video went viral, this murder is different. This moment is different. In his final moments, we hear George Floyd calling out to his dead mom.
When Rob and I heard that, we looked at each other and Rob vocalized my thought: He called out to his mom because she was there, ready to accompany him into the afterlife. And now the tragic death of George Floyd has triggered a massive movement for systemic change.