On May 25, a white Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck until his body went limp. The assault was caught on video. Floyd, 46, gasped that he could not breathe, but Chauvin did not let up, and Floyd died from his injuries in police custody. It was the third in a string of similar deaths to make its way into national headlines this month: In March, police in Louisville, Kentucky, burst into Breonna Taylor’s apartment in the middle of the night. They shot the 26-year-old eight times, killing her in her own home. And in February, two white men in a pickup truck gunned down Ahmaud Arbery while he jogged through their Georgia neighborhood. The pair admitted to fatally shooting Arbery, but were only arrested for his murder in May.
It’s an unfortunately familiar pattern in the United States; in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, anger has boiled over. Minneapolis has seen massive protests in recent weeks, while demonstrators across the country have gathered to demand immediate action to stop racist policing. Amid an ongoing pandemic, gathering to support one another carries unique risk, although for many, the calculation comes down to which danger is more immediate: the coronavirus, or police brutality. With that in mind, here’s what you can do to safely support protests right now.
Immediate actions in coming days.
Independence Day looms, raising the question of whose independence and whose freedom the holiday actually celebrates. This year, consider putting on your mask and joining a march in your area: Fourth of July weekend will see continued protests around the country, with demonstrations planned in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Orlando, all across California, and beyond. The president certainly seems to expect action, having dispatched the Department of Homeland Security to protect federal monuments over coming days.
Demand police accountability from your legislators.
Make ending police brutality a litmus test for your political support. Campaign Zero — which is also accepting donations — has a comprehensive guide to policies that aim to correct broken windows policing, excessive force, racial profiling, for-profit policing, cash bail, and much more. Familiarize yourself with laws in your area, and contact your representatives — at the local, state, and national level — to press them for their plans on ending discrimination in law enforcement.
In recent weeks, demand has also grown nationwide for cities and states to defund their police departments, reallocating that money toward services that promote the safety and health of marginalized communities. If you’d like to learn more about what this idea would actually mean and entail, Reclaim the Block (which also accepts donations) has a tool kit, as does the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (here). MPD 150 is a Minneapolis effort by local organizers, researchers, artists and activists working to develop a “practical pathway for dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department,” which offers a broad range of information, resources, organizations to follow, and donation suggestions. Black Lives Matter, also accepting donations, has a petition you can sign calling for the national defunding of police.
Public pressure appears to have proved decisive in Minneapolis, where the City Council recently announced its intention to disband the police force. If this is a concept that resonates with you, research how much of your city’s budget goes toward its police force, and demand your local lawmaker move to cut that spending and reallocate it toward other crucial areas, like housing, education, and public health. Divest-invest initiatives are underway around the country: In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to cut the NYPD’s $6 billion budget, ultimately shifting $1 billion from the department in a much-criticized decision. State lawmakers did, however, repeal a measure (Section 50-a) that allowed officers’ disciplinary record to be kept confidential. In Los Angeles, the City Council voted on June 16 to cut $150 million from the LAPD. Do some research on your area to determine your lawmakers’ stance on the concept, and check out the People’s Budget LA for roadmaps on what you might say when you contact them.
It’s also worth remembering that the policemen involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing — Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Officer Brett Hankison, and Officer Myles Cosgrove — have yet to be arrested or charged. So far, the city has only fired Hankison. Taylor’s family has curated a list of demands on FightForBreonna.org, where you can sign a petition asking Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the City Council to take stock of systemic bias and overuse of force within the city’s police department. The website also has contact information for the mayor’s office and a host of public institutions: Call or email and demand charges be brought against the officers — Black Lives Matter has instructions on exactly what to say, and the writer Cate Young compiled contact info for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the LMPD, and Governor Andy Beshear, which you can find here. While you’re signing petitions, you might also consider this one at Change.org, which makes additional asks that Taylor’s family be paid damages and that Congress convene a special session to ban “no-knock” warrants, one of which allowed the police to barrel into Taylor’s apartment.
On the subject of no-knock warrants: Louisville has now passed “Breonna’s Law,” banning no-knock warrants in the city. But unless you live in Oregon or Florida, no-knock warrants are legal in your state. Maybe also consider supporting the ACLU of Kentucky, which is currently working to get them banned in Taylor’s state.
And after Robert Fuller’s body was found hanging from a tree in Southern California earlier this month, consider that the U.S. still lacks federal anti-lynching legislation: The House passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act in February, but it stalled in the Senate on June 4, after Rand Paul voiced concerns about what he considers its over-broad phrasing. If you’re making calls to your national representatives, this legislation may be worth highlighting. You might also sign this Change.org petition, demanding “a thorough and transparent investigation” into Fuller’s death.
In recent weeks, Elijah McClain’s death after a brutal arrest by Aurora, Colorado, police officers has gained widespread attention. In August of last year, a trio of cops — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema — approached the 23-year-old while as he walked home from a convenience store, pinning him to the ground in a carotid hold and ignoring his pleas that he could not breathe. He died days later, after being taken off life support. A Change.org petition demanding “Justice for Elijah McClain” has since garnered millions of signatures, but the officers involved have yet to be arrested, charged, or even fired. Information on how to contact Aurora officials, and what to say, is available here. Additional contact information can be found here.
Make a donation.
If you have money to spare right now, consider making a donation, however small it might seem to you. As you make decisions about where to send money, consider our guide on how to make sure you’re donating effectively. The Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Brooklyn Bail Fund, the Northstar Health Collective, and Free Them All for Public Health have recently begun asking donors to redirect their funds to other non-profits amid an outpouring of support: check to make sure your organization of choice is still soliciting donations beforehand.
Pilar Weiss — director of the Community Justice Exchange — says that donating to local, grassroots formations is potentially the most impactful way to prioritize funds. Larger, national organizations tend to attract more resources, so it’s worth doing research into who’s operating in your community. “A lot of times the groups that need the most support don’t have fancy website and don’t have a communications team,” she explains. Talk to friends, families, houses of worship to figure out who is working on the issues you’d like to address, and then ask those people what they need.
Direct aid for victims’ families:
• George Floyd’s family has started a GoFundMe to cover funeral and burial costs; counseling services; legal fees; and continued care for his children. There’s also a GoFundMe to provide for his 6-year-old daughter, Gianna Floyd, and a GoFundMe to support “peace and healing” for Darnella Frazier, the woman who filmed Floyd’s death.
• Elijah McClain’s mom, Sheneen McClain, started a GoFundMe after her son was hospitalized last year. The fundraiser is ongoing.
• There’s a GoFundMe for David McAtee’s mother and family: McAtee was fatally shot just after midnight on June 1, after police officers and National Guard members fired into a crowd of people who were not taking part in the evening’s protests. As of June 30, it was still about $120,000 short of its goal.
• Another GoFundMe is raising money for Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, donations to which will similarly fund the family’s legal battle.
• There’s a GoFundMe for Breonna Taylor’s family, to help with legal fees and offer extra support.
• Diamond Alexander launched a GoFundMe after her brother, Robert Fuller, was found dead and hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California. Officials initially suggested Fuller died by suicide, but his family suspects he may have been murdered.
• There’s also a GoFundMe to help cover funeral expenses for Malcolm Harsch, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California, on May 31.
Bail funds: ActBlue has a page that will let you split your donation between 38 community bail funds, or if you’d like to focus your donation directly, here are some options.
• The Bail Project, a nonprofit that aims to mitigate incarceration rates through bail reform.
• The Louisville Community Bail Fund is helping bail out arrested protesters and works to counteract cash bail policies that keep people — disproportionately, people of color — in jail, even without charges.
• The National Bail Fund Network also has a directory of community bail funds to which you can donate, along with a COVID-19 rapid response fund.
Support for protesters:
• A Gas Mask Fund for Black youth activists in Minneapolis is raising money to buy gas masks for demonstrators who’ve faced tear gas during protests.
• The Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund is raising money for physical resources, bail, and medical care for Black, transgender protesters, which will be redistributed to Black, trans-led organizations “in the event these funds don’t need to be used.” See this FAQ for any payment questions.
• The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which supports racial justice through advocacy, litigation, and education.
• The Legal Rights Center is a non-profit law firm based in Minneapolis, offering legal defense, educational, and advocacy services.
• Black Visions Collective, a Black, trans, and queer-led social justice organization and legal fund based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Organizations working against mass-incarceration and police abuse:
• Communities United for Police Reform is an initiative to end discriminatory policing in New York, helping to educate people on their rights and document police abuse.
• Showing Up for Racial Justice works to educate white people about anti-racism and organizes actions to support the fight for racial justice and undermine white supremacy.
• Communities United Against Police Brutality, which operates a crisis hotline where people can report abuse; offers legal, medical, and psychological resource referrals; and engages in political action against police brutality.
• No New Jails NYC aims to keep the city from constructing new jails, and to instead divert funds that currently go toward the police and incarceration toward housing, ending homelessness, mental health, and other community support systems.
Community support: Our colleagues at the Strategist compiled a list of 125 Black-owned businesses in seven different commerce categories, which you can supplement with research within your own community.
• The Okra Project combats food insecurity in Black trans and gender-nonconforming communities. It set up two funds — the Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund, for trans men, and the Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund, for trans women — to help cover the costs of mental health therapy sessions with licensed Black therapists. You can donate money here, and learn about donating services by following the links above.
• Mutual aid funds are a good place to send community support amid a pandemic. Find more info on where to look here.
• Fair Fight, an organization founded by Stacey Abrams that aims to end voter suppression and equalize voting rights and access for fairer elections.
Join a protest, if you feel you can do so safely.
If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, or if you have been exposed, or if you live with or regularly come in contact people who are at particularly high risk of contracting the virus, the best thing to do is to isolate yourself. And while it is generally true that we should continue to keep our distance from others right now, the desire to show up for your community and your loved ones is understandable. For many people, police brutality poses an immediate risk to their health and well-being, and potentially also a fatal one.
So, if you decide to participate in a local protest, wear a mask. Bring hand sanitizer, and if you can, maybe pack a few extra water bottles, for yourself and for others who might need them. Try to maintain as much distance from others as possible, and not to touch anyone else if you can. Keeping in mind that the coronavirus appears to spread primarily through droplets expelled when people talk and shout and sneeze and cough, do your best to keep your mouth covered, and to refrain from chanting if you find yourself in close quarters with others. Check out our guide to protesting safely; our tips on what to do if you’re exposed to tear gas; and this basic first aid guide.
Offer resources to protesters and affected communities in your area.
As protests flared around the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in late May, neighbors offered participants water, food, and stoops to sit on during the demonstration. If you have the means, you might consider picking up some extra bottles of water, food, masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies ahead of protests in your area. Providing these basics is one way to help support the cause, even if you don’t feel like you can safely join in yourself.
Or, you could pick up extra groceries, household supplies — detergent, paper products, diapers, baby food, menstrual hygiene products, cleaning products, first-aid equipment — PPE, and find a donation point in your area. For example: In Minneapolis, where public transit has closed and many stores have been damaged, food pantries are in need of donations. Hunger Solutions has a list; Pimento Jamaican Kitchen set up a relief fund and is looking for volunteers (it’s also open for takeout); or you can find a pop-up pantry: Eater has a guide. Women for Political Change also has information on supply drop-offs and donation options in the Twin Cities and a frontline fund.
Look into donation efforts in your city, and if you have a car, consider volunteering to drop off supplies to people in need. Ask yourself: “What do you have available?” Weiss suggests. “Is it money, is it resources, is it connections? Sometimes it can be these really small things, like, do you have meeting space you can donate to somebody? Can you be a driver for somebody?” Donating doesn’t always have to mean money.
Help with a clean-up effort.
You can also help by supporting businesses owned by people of color in areas where they’ve been damaged. In Minneapolis, community clean-up events started the weekend after protests began — the Free Hugs Project launched rebuilding efforts and a GoFundMe to gather supplies, for example, and Support the Cities has information on clean-up initiatives and grocery drop-offs — and will be ongoing. Volunteers will need shovels, trash bags, brooms, gloves, water, and whatever other supplies they can contribute. Things like plywood may also be useful.
Educate yourself, educate others — particularly if you are white.
Take the time to learn how systemic racism operates in this country, particularly if you are a white person. Indeed, among the best things white people can do is to take the time to educate themselves on the experience of being Black in America — here are some suggestions if you’re looking for a starting point — and start talking to other white people.
“One of the challenges is, white people want to call people of color and say, ‘What am I supposed to do,’ which puts a tremendous burden on people of color,” Carla Wallace, a co-founder of Showing Up for Racial Justice, tells the Cut. “Our work is to move other white people.”
Anti-racism demands that we identify the hierarchies and power structures that have always awarded privilege to white people, and look at them honestly. Showing Up for Racial Justice developed a tool kit with Color of Change, and also has tips for calling people into conversations in a manner that doesn’t prompt defensiveness. You hear someone griping about the riots and violence at certain protests? Talk to them about the despair, the pain, and the anger at the center, and where that comes from. You hear someone wonder what privilege a broke white person has? Talk to them about what it’s like to not have to worry about your personal safety while moving through your day: jogging down a residential street, or walking home from a convenience store. But, Wallace recommends, exercise empathy over the urge to reproach.
“Unless we get more white people to end white silence, our silence will always be used by those in power to not make the changes that are needed. The majority of white people in this country are still on the side of business as usual,” Wallace says. “If 10,000 white people showed up tomorrow on the steps of Louisville’s City Hall, you can bet the mayor would fire these police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. …We have to win a significant number to stand with Black, brown, and indigenous communities for the justice that we all need in this country.”
If you have kids, talk to them.
Although parents may find these conversations painful and complicated, it’s important talk to your kids about what’s happening right now — even if your kids are young. White parents of white children can help their children understand racial injustice, and the concept of privilege, early on. Wallace points to Raising Race Conscious Children for suggestions on how to approach these conversations and this guide — intended for white and racially privileged parents — for tailoring those conversations to the child’s age. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has a toolkit for talking about race, and Black Lives Matter at School has an expansive guide to teaching materials and resources.
This article has been updated.
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