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Peaceful demonstrators protested police brutality, racial inequity and injustice. Business owners saw property destroyed in late night looting. Beautiful, powerful artwork emerged on ply board windows. Below, we seek to capture a moment in Raleigh and the people who are part of a much bigger movement towards lasting change.
This picture was taken by a good friend of mine as we marched on the sidewalk of Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. My mask was hot and sweaty. It was over 80 degrees and I had spent the last hour or so yelling at the top of my lungs “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Hands up, Don’t Shoot.” Still, it was the very least I could do. It had been a tough week for me. I had spent a few nights weeping over Mr. George Floyd’s lynching, ran with Mr. Ahmaud Arbery as part of the Justice for Ahmaud Campaign and laid in bed paralyzed at the fact that I could be the next Breonna Taylor who was executed for simply “Sleeping while Black.” The event was advertised and intended to be a peaceful call to action—a convening of like-minded individuals who are horrified and deeply upset by the senseless slayings of Black people by the police force, an institution meant to protect us. An institution, like many others in America, that has failed us since its inception.
I chose to attend because I am fed up. At the event, there were many issues addressed related to racial discrimination—housing inequality, lack of financial security, health disparities and others. I have worked trying to eradicate racial health disparities for quite some time and the video-taped, publicized killings of Black people in this country (and the dearth of repercussions for the perpetrators following these incidents) reaffirmed for me that this country does not even value our humanity. I marched because it was the humane and just thing to do and as the Black daughter of a Black mother and Black father with two Black brothers, this is my reality. I marched because, until Black people cease to be dehumanized, objectified and vilified in this nation, we will never move forward. It all starts with affirming our humanity.
— Brianna Baker
Attending the protests in Raleigh, I was inspired by seeing how many people are getting behind the Black Lives Matter movement and willing to fight for what is right. Despite all the rioting, looting and violent narratives being portrayed on some news channels, I found the rhetoric at the protests to be quite the opposite. The leaders were there to peacefully express their anger and dissatisfaction with the current state of things. I heard lines like “We’re not here to break any laws,” and “If you’re here to throw things at the police, you can leave.” With such a historic movement going global, I hope to see changes in our own police system. However, this issue goes so much deeper than a corrupt, racist police force and police brutality. We need to do better as a society and immediately begin [implementing] changes in the police system, school system and social services. One idea that has begun to take off is the “defund the police” campaign. Although it has a radical sounding title, I think if people look into it a bit more they’ll see this holistic approach to public safety involves dissolving the school-to-prison pipeline, decreasing crime and homelessness and extending social services to those who need it most. We have begun to see some policy changes across the country over the past few weeks, but clearly there is still work to be done.
— Liz Kloster
Our country is going through a very difficult and necessary time. I am a white male living in America who has never had to deal with these feelings of insecurity in my own skin when performing day-to-day tasks. I’ve always thought to be on the right side of the argument but never gone out and taken action. However, with what is taking place in our world today, I’m using everything in me to be on those front lines, to learn about different walks of lives, struggles and how to actually make a difference. While protesting against police brutality on the first two days in Raleigh, we were met with police brutality. I witnessed mothers and children screaming and crying for one another as tear gas was shot into massive crowds, as rubber bullets flew past, hitting some. If nothing more, it’s just another example of a corrupt system in need of change. We need police reform. If you are part of this field, you cannot act out of fear or hatred. You’re there to uphold the law. What I witnessed was fear-based, brutal assaults on peaceful protesters. What is happening right now is the only thing in my 27 years that has mattered so, to me, it is heartbreaking and eye-opening to hear what others go through. In just two short weeks, my life has changed listening to these people speak. Hopefully, this change will ripple its way into a better world for all.
— Michael Woodhouse
The Aftermath of Unrest
Amid the chaos of clashes between demonstrators and local law enforcement on May 30, rioters took the opportunity to damage and loot downtown businesses after sundown. Windows were smashed out, fires set, spray painted graffiti scrawled onto buildings. Business owners, already suffering economically due to COVID closures, took another hit. But many responded with grace. “My restaurant, the London Bridge Pub, was vandalized and looted tonight by what I can only assume was a fringe sect of the peaceful protesters,” wrote Darren Nigel Bridger on social media. “Just came to say I still support the protest. The root cause of all this upset is too awful to not continue protests.” From Trophy Brewing owner David Meeker: “As a business owner significantly impacted, I’m good with these protests going on as long as they need to to create the big change we need.” By morning, business owners and volunteers had taken to the streets and the cleanup was in full swing.
Beauty out of Damage
Ply boards went up over broken windows of downtown businesses for protection against more potential damage. Raleigh’s creative community rallied quickly. The Raleigh Murals Project, the Visual Art Exchange and Royale chef Jeffrey Seizer created a platform to elevate awareness around the issues that led to the protests against racial inequality, injustice and police brutality, using art as a medium.
“The Raleigh Murals Project believes that Black lives matter and values protests where voices of unity and justice can be heard,” Raleigh Murals Project posted on Instagram. The project sought to “amplify Black voices in our community…by prioritizing Black artists and artists of color and offering a platform to express those experiences and truths.”
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