Fires. Looting. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. Stun grenades. More than four thousand people arrested. The National Guard deployed. At least five people dead.
That is a snapshot of the protests spreading across the United States right now.
They come in response to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd who was killed while in police custody. After being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill, Floyd was restrained with force by a white police officer who pressed his knee against his neck. Floyd repeated the words “I can’t breathe” at least a dozen times before falling unconscious. He died later in hospital.
Watch: In Flint, Michigan, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson put down his baton and joined protesters in a peaceful march. Post continues below.
While the protests are a reaction to the death of Floyd, they are more broadly about the violence inflicted on black communities by police and vigilantes. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 and has been an ongoing protest against racially motivated violence, which has a long history in the United States (and here too).
Peaceful protests first broke out in Minneapolis eight nights ago, with tens of thousands of people marching through the streets. Since then, tensions have escalated, with more than 30 protests erupting across the US. At least 12 states have activated their National Guards, with buildings and police cars set on fire.
And while that is part of the story, it is not the whole story.
The vast majority of protesters are peaceful. Photos and videos are emerging online of moments of solidarity between protesters and police, silence as civilians remember those who have died, police handing out bottled water and passersby issuing hand sanitiser to all those demonstrating.
What photographs of burning buildings and tear gas don’t show us is the humanity at the heart of these protests. They are not senseless riots, but an outpouring of grief, a demonstration by the American people demanding a better future.