FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 08, 2020
Tense country: Racial justice marches, unrest, curfews add to strain from virus and closings
Share a quote or detail from coverage of a recent march in your city or state.
Read an editorial or opinion column about the current situation. Why do you agree of disagree?
How are newspapers and journalists particularly important at a time of pandemic and street protests?
NBC News anchor Lester Holt began his nightly newscast on June 1 with four unanswerable questions being asked by "an anguished and weary America: When will this all end? When will the protests end? When will the police brutality that triggered them end? The virus, the financial ruin that have taken us to the edge, when will they end?" He refers, of course, to nationwide marches for racial justice that began in late May, days after minor crime suspect George Floyd of Minneapolis died during a Memorial Day arrest. A now-fired officer who kept a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes is charged with murder. Americans have filled the streets of cities and towns to protest police brutality and wider social inequity. "We will not let this stand. Enough is enough," says Aly Conyers, a 17-year-old high school sprinter from South Carolina, who protested in Washington with an older brother.
Crowds chant "Black lives matter," "No justice, no peace" and Floyd's name as they demonstrate from coast to coast, including this past weekend in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and near the White House. Overnight curfews began in some cities after looting, vandalism, arson and attacks on police after orderly marches ended. National Guard troops were called up in at least 20 states.
President Trump has responded with a mixed tone. "Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, color, gender or creed," he said Friday at the White House. "We all saw what happened last week [in Minneapolis]. We can't let that happen." Yet five days earlier he reacted to protests this way on Twitter: "Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors. These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you." During the tense week, he didn't meet with any representatives of the black community or support police reforms.
Daily demonstrations largely bump Covid-19 to a secondary news topic for now, but the lung virus remains a serious threat. It has killed more than 112,000 Americans since March, an astronomical toll that assures 2020 a lasting place in human history. Many protesters wear protective face masks, but doctors and elected officials warn that people jamming streets and walking closely risk infection and could overwhelm hospitals with a new wave of cases. Tear gas and pepper spray, which police have used to disperse crowds, cause people to tear up and cough, and increase respiratory secretions from the eyes, nose and mouth -- further increasing the chance of transmission. "Public gatherings are public gatherings — it doesn't matter what you're protesting or cheering,” says Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. "That's one reason we're not having large baseball games and may not have college football this fall."
Senator says: "Our nation cannot deafen itself to the anger, pain or frustration of black Americans. Our nation needs to hear this." – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Congresswoman says: "As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to protect and serve. And those who forgot — or who never understood that oath in the first place — must go. That includes those who would stand by as they witness misconduct by a fellow officer." – Rep. Val Demins, D-Fla., former Orlando police officer
Barack Obama says: "If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation's long journey to live up to our highest ideals."
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