Ever since the death of George Floyd on May 25, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have been happening across the country, prompting some UA Little Rock students to attend to march for a cause that they care about.
Ruby Trotter, a junior majoring in Chemistry and Spanish here at UA Little Rock, attended a BLM protest in Fort Smith back in May shortly after the protests across the country began.
“The protest lasted for 8 hours, but I was only there for about 30 minutes,” Trotter said.
Trotter says about 100 people were lining both sides of the street down Rogers Avenue in front of the Chick-Fil-A. She also said there were many different types of people at the protest.
“The protest consisted of students, adults, and other community members,” she said. “I was incredibly touched to see people of all races out there in support. I actually cried on the way in because I saw a lot of White people passionately protesting for our rights. It was so nice.”
Trotter says that the protest she attended was nothing but peaceful.
“It was mostly just protesters lining Rogers Ave, holding signs, and chanting,” she said. “There were even protest coordinators handing out water and snacks for the protesters. It was a super positive environment.”
However, according to Trotter, not everyone was entirely positive.
“There were some people who would drive by and throw up their middle fingers,” she said. “They would also yell at us.”
Trotter says there was an incident that occurred after she left the protest. She says that there was a man who attempted to be violent against protesters and that he had a weapon on him. However, law enforcement quickly deescalated the situation and arrested the man.
Trotter was taken aback from the amount of support other races were showing the Black community.
“The thing that stood out to me the most was how white people and other races were standing proudly with us,” she said. “I had seen some touching videos like that on social media but it was incredible to see in person. Just knowing that we are not alone in this struggle was so refreshing. I often feel like everything we are doing is in vain, especially with this recent Breonna Taylor ruling. But thinking back to that gives me a little hope.”
Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old black woman who was shot in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13. The officers were at Taylor’s home for an alleged drug raid. Allegedly, Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were involved with drugs. The police officers involved busted into Taylor’s apartment on a no-knock warrant. Walker fired shots when he realized someone had busted into the apartment. The police officers fired back, killing Breonna Taylor in her own home. One of the three officers was fired. None of them have been charged and convicted to this day.
Gage Pipkin, a Junior majoring in Theatre Arts, said he attended two BLM protests.
“I attended two BLM protests in Jonesboro,” he said. “One took place on the road in front of the police department. The other protest took place downtown.”
Pipkin says the protest in front of the police department lasted for quite a while.
“The protest that took place near the police department was almost an all-day event,” he said. “However, I only stayed for a few hours because I had to go to work later that day.”
Pipkin says that the protest downtown lasted a few hours, so he was able to stay the whole time. He also says there were quite a lot of people at both protests.
“At the first protest, there were mainly adults,” he said “There were police officers there too. I do remember some kids being present. At the second protest, there was a mixture of adults and students.”
Pipkin emphasized that both protests were peaceful, however, there was an incident at one of the protests.
“During our walk to where we started, a vehicle ran into the crowd and a man with a gun appeared,” said Pipkin. “No shots were fired, but people did start running.”
Pipkin stated that people ran towards the man’s van and the police soon followed. Pipkin mentioned that he wasn’t sure of the outcome of that incident.
Despite that incident, Pipkin relished on how united the protests and the protestors were.
“We marched around downtown and ended the march with a moment of silence that lasted for eight minutes and 15 seconds,” he said.
Eight minutes and 15 seconds was how long Officer Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who is currently being charged for the death of George Floyd, had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“It honestly was magical at how everyone treated each other at this protest,” Pipkin said.
Pipkin also mentioned that the police officers mainly acted as bystanders at both protests.
“They were there to help block off the roads,” he said. “They wanted to listen. At the start of the first protest, the police and community members set up a time to talk about the issues they face. It felt very proactive from my perspective.”
Pipkin said that what stood out to him the most about the protests was the fact that people still believe that protestors have a part in creating violence.
“For example, the man who had pulled a gun on the protestors,” he said. “It was known that he tried to hit protestors with his van. Then he pulled out his firearm. Protestors proceeded to take matters into their own hands to stop the man.”
He mentioned that many of his fellow peers claimed that the protestors started the violence.
“It’s crazy what people want to believe to fit their hidden agendas,” he said.
Pipkin stated that Black Lives Matter is a call to action to address a major flaw in our justice system and to create equality among the people.
“It is a call that minorities’ lives matter just as much as the majority,” he said. “BLM is choosing life.”
Pipkin said that he went to the protests because he knows what it’s like to not be granted equal rights as others.
“As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I would not have the rights that I have today if it was not for the queer POC (People of Color),” he said.
Pipkin is mainly referring to Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender Black woman who is known to have started the Stonewall Riots, a major turning point in the gay rights movement.
“I needed to show my respect, solidarity and love,” he said.
Pipkin mentioned that his best friend is a Black woman and that she has had a major influence in his life.
“If I don’t stand with her, then what value would our friendship have?” he said.
Pipkin did say that his support for the movement has affected some of his personal relationships.
“My family and friends all know where I stand,” he said. “I have had deep conversations with them. At the end of the day, they either understood my point of view or they agreed to disagree with me. If those close to me did not feel the need to speak up or support the movement, I pointed it out and would ask why they have chosen silence.”
Statistics show that 93% on the BLM protests have been peaceful. There have been times where protests became violent, but the majority of them were peaceful.
According to the official Black Lives Matter website, BLM is a global movement and organization whose mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”
The movement was adopted after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, in 2013. Martin was only 17 years old when he was murdered in the street in central Florida. Martin was walking home on a February evening in 2012. He had a bag of skittles and an Arizona Peace Tea in his hands. A fatal encounter occurred between Martin and Zimmerman; Zimmerman was a neighborhood watchman at the time. He claimed that Martin looked “suspicious.” Against the dispatcher’s orders, Zimmerman followed Martin. The scuffle between the two led Martin to run down the neighborhood screaming for help. His screams could be heard through the phone when one of the neighbors called 911. Zimmerman fired rounds at Martin, ultimately ending the young boy’s life. From this incident, BLM was born.
BLM and its supporters have been protesting for Black lives for seven years now. People have been protesting for Black lives for decades. More and more people are recording unjust incidents against black people on their phones and sharing them on social media. The Rodney King beating by four LAPD officers in 1991 was caught on tape. Eric Garner’s death was also caught on tape. Around late April of this year, the video of Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down while on a run by three white men was released on several media and social media platforms; He was killed in February.
All of these black mens’ death sparked uproar within the United States. However, George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. George Floyd was allegedly arrested for paying with a counterfeit $20 bill at a store. A video surfaced on social media of a Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for approximately eight minutes and fifteen seconds. During the recording, you can hear Floyd pleading for his mother and telling the officers, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd died from mechanical asphyxia. All four of the officers involved in the arrest were fired. But that wasn’t enough as citizens of all different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds demanded that justice be served for the unarmed killing of George Floyd. This is where the worldwide protests in favor of justice for George Floyd, and justice for all black lives, began.
As a Black woman, I wholeheartedly support Black Lives Matter. It’s not a trend that lasts for a few months; It’s a lifelong commitment to justice. A lot of people who bash BLM fail to realize that it’s an equal opportunity organization and movement. Yes, we’re screaming “BLM!” in the streets and advocating for the justice of black people who have been killed because of police brutality. The message isn’t that black lives are more valuable than any other races’ lives. The message is that black lives matter just as much as everyone else’s lives. But since our justice system has continuously failed to acknowledge that for years, we will continue to march and protest until our demands to equal rights be considered and direct action is taken. All lives can’t matter until black ones do.