George Floyd protests

The George Floyd protests are an ongoing series of police brutality protests that began in Minneapolis in the United States on May 26, 2020.[6] The civil unrest and protests began as part of international responses to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed during an arrest after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Department officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on and prevented passers-by from intervening.[7][8][9][10][11][12] Chauvin and the other three officers involved were later arrested.[13]

George Floyd protests
Part of the 2020–21 United States racial unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement
Clockwise from top:
Protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota where George Floyd was killed and the unrest began; police and National Guard at a protest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; demonstrators and firefighters on a torched street in Minneapolis; protest near the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Oregon; police and National Guard in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.; Minnesota State Patrol troopers in formation in front of a burning building in Minneapolis; the Minneapolis Police's 3rd Precinct set ablaze
DateMay 26, 2020 – present
(9 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)
Caused by
MethodsProtests, demonstrations, civil disobedience, civil resistance, online activism, strike action, riots
Deaths, arrests and damages
Death(s)19+ (as of June 8, 2020)[lower-alpha 1]
Property damage
  • $500 million in Minneapolis–Saint Paul (May 26–-June 6, 2020)[4]
  • $1–2 billion in insured damages in the United States (May 26–June 8, 2020)[5]

Local protests began in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota before quickly spreading nationwide and to over 2,000 cities and towns in over 60 countries in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.[14][15][16] Polls in summer 2020 estimated that between 15 million and 26 million people had participated at some point in the demonstrations in the United States, making the protests the largest in U.S. history.[17][18][19]

While the majority of protests have been peaceful,[20] demonstrations in some cities escalated into riots, looting,[21] and street skirmishes with police and counter-protesters. Some police responded to protests with instances of police violence, including against reporters.[22][23][24] At least 200 cities in the U.S. had imposed curfews by early June, while more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. activated over 96,000 National Guard, State Guard, 82nd Airborne, and 3rd Infantry Regiment service members.[25][26][27][28] The deployment, when combined with already-existing activations related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters, constituted the largest military operation other than war in U.S. history.[29] By the end of June, at least 14,000 people had been arrested.[3][30][31] It was later estimated that between May 26 and August 22, 93% of individual protests were "peaceful and nondestructive"[32] and The Washington Post estimated that by the end of June, 96.3% of 7,305 demonstrations involved no injuries and no property damage.[33] Nevertheless, arson, vandalism, and looting between May 26 and June 8 were tabulated to have caused $1–2 billion in insured damages nationally—the highest recorded damage from civil disorder in U.S. history, "eclipsing the record set in Los Angeles in 1992 after the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King."[5][34]

The protests precipitated a cultural reckoning on racial injustice in the United States and have led to numerous legislative proposals on federal, state, and municipal levels intended to combat police misconduct, systemic racism, qualified immunity and police brutality in the United States,[35][36] while the Trump administration drew widespread criticism for what critics called its hard line rhetoric and aggressive, militarized response.[37] The protests led to a wave of monument removals and name changes throughout the world. The protests occurred during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and amidst the 2020 United States presidential election season.[38][39] Local protests continued through 2020, primarily at George Floyd Square,[40][41][42] and into 2021.[43]

Local officials in MinneapolisSaint Paul prepared for the possibility of continued unrest in 2021 with the trial of the four officers responsible for Floyd's death scheduled for March.[44][45]


Police brutality in the United States

Frequent cases of police misconduct and fatal use of force by law enforcement officers[46] in the U.S., particularly against African Americans, have long led the civil rights movement and other activists to protest against the lack of police accountability in incidents involving excessive force. Many protests during the civil rights movement were a response to police brutality, including the 1965 Watts riots which resulted in the deaths of 34 people, mostly African Americans.[47] The largest post-civil rights movement protest in the 20th Century was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which were in response to the acquittal of police officers responsible for excessive force against Rodney King, an African American man.[48]

In 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri resulted in local protests and unrest while the death of Eric Garner in New York City resulted in numerous national protests. After Eric Garner and George Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" during their arrests, the phrase became a protest slogan against police brutality. In 2015 the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody resulted in riots in the city and nationwide protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.[49] Several nationally publicized incidents occurred in Minnesota, including the 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis; the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights;[50] and the 2017 shooting of Justine Damond. In 2016, Tony Timpa was killed by Dallas police officers in the same way as George Floyd.[51] In March 2020, the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police executing a search warrant at her Kentucky apartment was also widely publicized.[52]

COVID-19 pandemic

Measures taken against the COVID-19 pandemic, including closure of non-essential businesses[53] and implementation of stay-at-home orders,[54] had significant economic and social impact on many Americans as millions had lost their jobs and were made more economically vulnerable.[55]

Killing of George Floyd

Memorial at the site of Floyd's death

According to a police statement, on May 25, 2020, at 8:08 p.m. CDT,[56] Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers responded to a 9-1-1 call regarding a "forgery in progress" on Chicago Avenue South in Powderhorn, Minneapolis. MPD Officers Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng arrived with their body cameras turned on. A store employee told officers that the man was in a nearby car. Officers approached the car and ordered George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who according to police "appeared to be under the influence", to exit the vehicle, at which point he "physically resisted". According to the MPD, officers "were able to get the suspect into handcuffs, and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance." Once Floyd was handcuffed, he and Officer Lane walked to the sidewalk. Floyd sat on the ground at Officer Lane's direction. In a short conversation, the officer asked Floyd for his name and identification, explaining that he was being arrested for passing counterfeit currency, and asked if he was "on anything". According to the report officers Kueng and Lane attempted to help Floyd to their squad car, but at 8:14 p.m., Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Soon, MPD Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao arrived in a separate squad car. The officers made several more failed attempts to get Floyd into the squad car.[57]

Floyd, who was still handcuffed, went to the ground face down. Officer Kueng held Floyd's back and Lane held his legs. Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Floyd's head and neck. A Facebook Live livestream recorded by a bystander showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck.[58][59] Floyd repeatedly tells Chauvin "Please" and "I can't breathe", while a bystander is heard telling the police officer, "You got him down. Let him breathe."[60] After some time, a bystander points out that Floyd was bleeding from his nose while another bystander tells the police that Floyd is "not even resisting arrest right now", to which the police tell the bystanders that Floyd was "talking, he's fine". A bystander replies saying Floyd "ain't fine". A bystander then protests that the police were preventing Floyd from breathing, urging them to "get him off the ground ... You could have put him in the car by now. He's not resisting arrest or nothing."[59] Floyd then goes silent and motionless. Chauvin does not remove his knee until an ambulance arrives. Emergency medical services put Floyd on a stretcher. Not only had Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for about seven minutes (including four minutes after Floyd stopped moving) but another video showed an additional two officers had also knelt on Floyd while another officer watched.[61][62]

A George Floyd mural created by protesters in Portland, Oregon

Although the police report stated that medical services were requested prior to the time Floyd was placed in handcuffs,[63] according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Emergency Medical Services arrived at the scene six minutes after getting the call.[64] Medics were unable to detect a pulse, and Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital.[65] An autopsy of Floyd was conducted on May 26, and the next day, the preliminary report by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office was published, which found "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation". Floyd's underlying health conditions included coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The initial report said that "the combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death."[66] The medical examiner further said Floyd was "high on fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamine at the time of his death".[67]

On May 26, Chauvin and the other three officers were fired.[68] He was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter;[69] the former charge was later changed to second-degree murder.[70]

On June 1, a private autopsy commissioned by the family of Floyd ruled the death a homicide and found that Floyd had died due to asphyxiation from sustained pressure, which conflicted with the original autopsy report done earlier that week.[71] Shortly after, the official post-mortem declared Floyd's death a homicide.[72] Video footage of Officer Derek Chauvin applying 8 minutes 15 seconds of sustained pressure to Floyd's neck generated global attention and raised questions about the use of force by law enforcement.[73]


Map of protests around the world with over 100 participants. Minneapolis-St. Paul is marked in red. (click for a dynamic version of the map)

In Minneapolis–Saint Paul

Organized protests began in Minneapolis on May 26, the day after George Floyd's killing and when a video of the incident had circulated widely in the media. By midday, people had gathered by the thousands at the location of Floyd's death and set up a makeshift memorial.[74][75] Organizers of the rally emphasized keeping the protest peaceful.[76] Protesters and Floyd's family demanded that all four officers at the scene of his arrest and death be charged with murder and that judicial consequences were swift.[77][78] That evening, the protest rally turned into a march to the Minneapolis Police Department's third precinct station where the officers were believed to work. After the main protest group disbanded on the night of May 26, a much smaller group, numbering in the hundreds, spray-painted the building, threw rocks and bottles, broke a window at the station and vandalized a squad car. A skirmish soon broke out between the vandals and protesters trying to stop them.[75][76][79][80] At around 8 p.m., police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, some of whom had thrown water bottles at police officers.[81]

Protests were held at several locations throughout the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area in subsequent days. The situation escalated the nights of May 27 to 29 where widespread arson, rioting, and looting took place, which were noted as a contrast to daytime protests that were characterized as mostly peaceful events.[80] Some initial acts of property destruction on May 27 by a 32-year-old man with ties to white supremacist organizations, who local police investigators said was deliberately inciting racial tension, led to a chain reaction of fires and looting.[82] The unrest, including people overtaking the Minneapolis third precinct police station and setting it on fire the night of May 28, garnered significant national and international media attention.[79][83] After state officials mobilized Minnesota National Guard troops in its largest deployment since World War II,[84][85] the violent unrest subsided and mostly peaceful protests resumed.[79] However, the violence by early June 2020 had resulted in two deaths,[86][87] 604 arrests,[88][89] and upwards of $500 million in property damage to 1,500 locations, making it the second-most destructive period of local unrest in United States history, after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[90][91][92][89]

In Minneapolis, the protest movement over George Floyd's death was deeply rooted at the East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection where he was killed.[93] Protesters barricaded the street intersection and transformed it into a makeshift memorial site, which was adorned with public art installments and described as like a "shrine". Thousands of visitors protested and grieved at the site.[94][93] When Minneapolis city officials attempted to negotiate the re-opening of the intersection in August 2020, protesters demanded that before removing cement barricades the city meet a list of 24 demands,[95] which included holding the trial for the four officers at the scene of Floyd's death.[96]

Ahead of the trial of Derek Chauvin scheduled for March 8, 2021, Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials spent $1 million on fencing and other barricades for police stations and other government buildings. State and local officials also made plans to deploy thousands of police officers and National Guard soldiers.[97] In early March, ahead of the trial, local organizers staged peaceful protests.[98] The situation at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis grew tense when a person was fatally shot inside the "autonomous zone" during an altercation on March 6, 2021.[98][99]

Elsewhere in the United States

George Floyd protests arrests reported to the DOJ or FBI as of June 6, 2020

Protests outside the Minneapolis area were first reported on May 27 in Memphis and Los Angeles. It is unclear if demonstrators were reacting to the graphic video of Floyd's death or the culmination of a string of black American deaths, preceded by Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta on February 23 and Breonna Taylor in Louisville on March 13. By May 28, protests had sprung up in several major U.S. cities with demonstrations increasing each day.[100][101][102] By June, protests had been held in all U.S. states. At least 200 cities had imposed curfews, and at least 27 states and Washington, D.C. activated over 62,000 National Guard personnel in response to the unrest.[103][28]

In Seattle, starting in early June, protesters occupied an area of several city blocks after the police vacated it, declaring it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where according to protesters "the police are forbidden, food is free and documentaries are screened at night". On June 11, President Trump challenged mayor Jenny Durkan and governor Jay Inslee to "take back your city", and implying, according to Durkan, the possibility of a military response.[104][105]

On June 3, as U.S. protests gained momentum, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a recommendation for users to download end-to-end encryption (E2EE) messaging app Signal.[106] On June 6, an estimated half million people joined protests in 550 places in the United States.[18] By June 11, The New York Times reported that protest organizers relied on the E2EE app "to devise action plans and develop strategies for handling possible arrests for several years" and that downloads had "skyrocketed" with increased awareness of police monitoring leading protesters to use the app to communicate among themselves.[107] During the first week of June, the encrypted messaging app was downloaded over five times more than it had been during the week prior to the death of George Floyd. Citizen, a community safety app, also experienced a high spike in downloads.[107]

On June 8, 2020, the police-free Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone was established in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.

On June 10, thousands of academics, universities, scientific institutions, professional bodies and publishing houses around the world shut down to give researchers time to reflect and act upon anti-Black racism in academia.[108] Organisations involved with #ShutDownSTEM day include Nature Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Physical Society.

On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum at Grand Army Plaza for the Liberation March, a silent protest in response to police brutality and violence against black transgender women. Frustrated by the lack of media coverage over the deaths of Nina Pop, who was stabbed in Sikeston, Missouri on May 3 and Tony McDade, who was shot by police in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27, artist and drag performer West Dakota and her mentor, drag queen Merrie Cherry, decided to organize a silent rally inspired by the 1917 NAACP Silent Parade.[109][110] The march generated widespread media attention as one of the largest peaceful protests in modern New York City history.[111][112]

On June 19, Juneteenth, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down ports on the West Coast in solidarity with protesters. An educator from the University of Washington said that the union has a history of protest and leftist politics since its founding: "[The ILWU] understood that division along the lines of race only benefited employers, because it weakened the efforts of workers to act together and to organize together.[113] The UAW also asked members to join the protests by standing down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Chauvin was initially reported to have held his knee to Floyd's neck.[114][115]

On June 17, in response to the protests, three different police reform plans, plans from the Republicans, the Democrats, and the White House, were unveiled aiming to curb police brutality and the use of violence by law enforcement.[116] On June 25, NPR reported that the hopes for passage were doubtful because they were "short-circuited by a lack of bipartisan consensus on an ultimate plan [and] the issue is likely stalled, potentially until after the fall election".[117]

Protests continued over the weekend of June 19 in many cities, and observations of Juneteenth gained a new awareness.[16] Jon Batiste, bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, took part in a Juneteenth day of protests, marches, rallies and vigils to "celebrate, show solidarity, and fight for equal rights and treatment of Black people" in Brooklyn. Batiste also appeared in concert with Matt Whitaker in a performance presented in partnership with Sing For Hope, performed on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library.[118]

As of July 3, protests were ongoing.[18] Over the course of the demonstrations, protests have occurred in over 40% of the counties in the United States.[18] Polls suggesting between 15 million and 26 million people participated, which would make these demonstrations the largest in United States history.[18]

On July 20, the Strike for Black Lives, a mass walkout intended to raise awareness of systemic racism, featured thousands of workers across the United States walking off their jobs for approximately 8 minutes, in honor of Floyd.[119]

To mark what would have been Floyd's 47th birthday, groups across the US staged events[120] and celebrities paid tribute to him.[121]

For some Black Americans, particularly a group interviewed in George Floyd's hometown in Houston, Texas, the protests over Floyd's death transformed to greater political activity and increased voter turnout in the November 2020 election.[122]

Elsewhere in the world

Protest at Alexanderplatz in Berlin on June 6

Solidarity protests over Floyd's death quickly spread worldwide. Protests in Canada, Europe, Oceania, Asia, and Africa have rallied against what they perceived as racial discrimination and police brutality, with some protests aimed at United States embassies.[123]

Over the weekend of June 7 and 8, surfers around the world held a "Paddle Out", a Hawaiian mourning tradition, for George Floyd and all the lives lost to police violence. Thousands observed the tradition in Honolulu, Hawaii,[124] La Jolla, Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica, California, Galveston, Hackensack, New Jersey, Rockaway Beach, New York,[125] Biarritz, France, Senegal and Australia.[126][127]

Activation of non-local forces

States that activated the National Guard in response to the protests by June 16


At least 200 cities in the U.S. had imposed curfews by early June, while more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. activated over 96,000 National Guard and State Guard service members.[25][26][27][28] The deployment constitutes the largest military operation other than war in U.S. history.[29]


United States President Donald Trump controversially threatened to deploy the 82nd Airborne and 3rd Infantry Regiment in response to the unrest.[25] On June 3 he said "If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem."[128] This would require invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807,[128] last used to quell the 1992 Los Angeles riots on May 1, 1992 by Executive Order 12804. Arkansas senator Tom Cotton also pushed for the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to be deployed to quell the unrest, calling protesters "Antifa terrorists".[129] Cotton tweeted "No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."[130] However, many legal experts said this would violate the Department of Defense Law of War Manual, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions.[130] Cotton later said he was using "no quarter" in a colloquial sense, but Mark Zaid and Tom Nichols responded that the legal definition of the term is a war crime.[130] Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton said federal troops should "lay down [their] arms" if deployed in the United States.[131]

Minnesota National Guard behind police at the Minnesota State Capitol building on May 31 (top); National Guard snipers atop the North Carolina State Capitol building on June 1 (bottom)

On June 4, federal agencies added about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of fencing around the White House, Lafayette Square, and The Ellipse.[132] Protesters used the fencing to post signs and artwork expressing their views.[133] On June 11, the fencing was taken down, and some signs were collected by Smithsonian Museum curators from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.[134] U.S. Customs and Border Protection, authorized to provide aerial surveillance "to assist law enforcement and humanitarian relief efforts" when requested, provided drone imagery during the protests.[135][136]

Federal policing of protests

As of June 5, 2,950 federal law enforcement personnel from a dozen agencies, including the Secret Service, Capital Police, Park Police, Customs and Border Protection, FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, Bureau of Prisons' Special Operations Response Team, DEA's Special Response Team, ATF, and Marshals Service's Special Operations Group, have been dispatched to assist local authorities, with most of them being garrisoned in D.C.[137][138][139][140] The DEA's legal authority was specifically expanded by the Department of Justice beyond usual limits to include surveillance of protesters and the ability to arrest for non-drug related offenses.[141] In response, Representatives Jerry Nadler and Karen Bass of the House Judiciary Committee denounced the move and requested a formal briefing from DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea.[142]

On June 26, President Trump signed an executive order permitting federal agencies to provide personnel "to assist with the protection of Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property".[143] Following the executive order, the Department of Homeland Security sent officers from Customs and Border Protection to Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. This was a departure from Homeland Security's normal role of protecting against threats from abroad.[144] Critics accused federal authorities of overstepping their jurisdiction and using excessive force against protesters.[144][145][146] Oregon governor Kate Brown called for federal agents to scale back their response and criticized Trump's actions: "President Trump deploying armed federal officers to Portland only serves to escalate tensions and, as we saw yesterday, will inevitably lead to unnecessary violence and confrontation."[146] Portland mayor Ted Wheeler demanded the agents be removed after citizens were detained far from the federal property agents were sent to protect.[147]

From at least July 14, unidentified federal officers wearing camouflage used unmarked vans to detain protesters in Portland, Oregon—sometimes without explaining the reason for their arrest.[148][149][150][151][152][153] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called these actions unconstitutional kidnappings.[154] In The Nation, Jeet Heer also called the actions unconstitutional and wrote that "The deployment of unidentified federal officers is particularly dangerous in... Portland and elsewhere in America, because it could easily lead to right-wing militias' impersonating legal authorities and kidnapping citizens."[153]

On July 20, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Department of Homeland Security was preparing to send 150 federal agents to Chicago.[155]

Violence and controversies

From top:
1. Burning buildings amid riots in Saint Paul, Minnesota on May 29
2. Police and protesters stand off in Seattle on May 30
3. Vehicles on fire during a riot in Washington, D.C. on May 30
4. Georgia National Guard and police clash with protesters in Atlanta in late May-early June
5. Protesters and counter-protesters faceoff in Columbus, Ohio on July 18

As of June 22, 2020, police have made 14,000 arrests in 49 cities since the protests began, with most arrests being locals charged with low-level offenses such as violating curfews or blocking roadways.[3] As of June 8, 2020, at least 19 people have died during the protests.[156] Several protests over Floyd's death, including one in Chicago,[157] turned into riots.[158] On May 29, 2020, civil rights leader Andrew Young stated that riots, violence, and looting "hurt the cause instead of helping it".[159] George Floyd's family has denounced the violent protests.[160] A study conducted by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project found that about 93% of 7,750 protests from May 26 through August 22 remained peaceful and nondestructive.[32]

There have been numerous reports and videos of aggressive police actions using physical force including "batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked".[161] These incidents have provoked "growing concern that aggressive law enforcement tactics intended to impose order were instead inflaming tensions".[161] The police responded that such tactics are necessary to prevent vandalism and arson, and that police officers themselves have been assaulted with thrown rocks and water bottles.[161] Amnesty International issued a press release calling for the police to end excessive militarized responses to the protests.[162][163]

At least 66 incidents of vehicles driving into crowds of protesters were recorded from May 27 to July 6, with at least four ruled accidental and seven involving police officers. Since 2015, such actions have been encouraged against Black Lives Matter protests by "Run Them Over" and "All Lives Splatter" memes online, as well as items posted on Fox News and on social media by police officers.[164][165][166]

There have been allegations of foreign influence stoking the unrest online, with the role of outside powers being additive rather than decisive as of May 31.[167] Several analysts have said that there was a lack of evidence for foreign meddling – whether to spread disinformation or sow divisiveness – but suggest that the messaging and coverage from these countries has more to do with global politics.[168]

Police attacks on journalists

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, at least 100 journalists have been arrested while covering the protests, while 114 have been physically attacked by police officers.[169] Although some journalists have been attacked by protesters, over 80% of incidents involving violence against the news media were committed by law enforcement officers.[170] The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused police officers of intentionally targeting news crews in an attempt to intimidate them from covering the protests.[171] Some journalists covering the protests in Minneapolis had their tires slashed by Minnesota State Patrol troopers and Anoka County sheriff's deputies.[172]

Injuries caused by police projectiles

During the week of May 30, 12 people, including protesters, journalists and bystanders, were partially blinded after being struck with police projectiles.[173] By June 21, at least 20 people had suffered serious eye injuries.[174] The American Academy of Ophthalmology has called on police departments to stop using rubber bullets for crowd control, writing in a statement that "Americans have the right to speak and congregate publicly and should be able to exercise that right without the fear of blindness."[175]

Extremist participation

There have been accusations of various extremist groups using the cover of the protests to foment general unrest in the United States. CNN initially reported on May 31 that "although interference in this way may be happening, federal and local officials have yet to provide evidence to the public."[176]

A number of Trump administration officials and politicians such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio[177] and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray[178] have alleged that "anarchists" and "far-left extremist" groups, including "Antifa", were exploiting the situation or were responsible for violence. However, there is no evidence that antifa-aligned individuals played a role in instigating the protests or violence or that antifa played a significant role in the protests,[179][180][181] and the Trump administration has provided no evidence for its claims.[181] The vast majority of protests were peaceful;[182][183][184] among the 14,000 arrests made, most were for minor offenses such as alleged curfew violations or blocking a roadway.[3] Persons involved in visible crimes such as arson or property damage were not ideologically organized, although some were motivated by anger towards police.[3] Episodes of looting were committed by "regular criminal groups" and street gangs[185][180] and was motivated by personal gain rather than ideology.[3] A large number of white nationalists did not appear in response to the protests, although "a handful of apparent lone actors" were arrested for attempting to harm protesters.[3] However, there was a scattered number of armed paramilitary-style militia movement groups and there were "several cases where members of these groups discharged firearms, causing chaos or injuring protesters".[3]

According to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), which mapped the appearance of various right-wing or far-right actors or extremist groups at rallies throughout the United States, there had been 136 confirmed cases of right-wing participation at the protests by June 19, with many more unconfirmed. Boogaloo, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, neo-Confederates, white nationalists, and an assortment of militias and vigilante groups reportedly had a presence at some protests, mostly in small towns and rural areas.[3][186]

Boogaloo groups, who are generally pro-gun, anti-government, and far-right accelerationists, have reportedly been present at no less than 40 George Floyd protests, several reportedly linked with violence.[3][187] Their continued presence online has caused Facebook and TikTok to take action against their violent and anti-government posts.[188][189] On July 25, 2020, 28-year old armed Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster was shot and killed in an altercation with a motorist in Downtown Austin. Foster identified with the boogaloo movement and had expressed anti-racist, libertarian, and anti-police views in his Facebook posts.[190] Police said initial reports indicate that Foster was carrying an AK-47 style rifle, and was pushing his fiancée's wheelchair moments before he was killed.[191][192]

By late 2020, the United States Attorney's office had charged three alleged members of Boogaloo Bois movement who attempted to capitalize on the unrest in Minneapolis in late May.[193][194] One of the persons, Benjamin Ryan Teeter, a 22-year old from Hampstead, North Carolina, pled guilty to several federal criminal charges. Officials believed he travelled to Minneapolis in the days after Floyd's death to participate in rioting and looting and that he also had plans to destroy a courthouse.[195]

Use of social media

A George Floyd protest in Baltimore on May 30

Many individuals and celebrities used social media to document the protests, spread information, promote donation sites, and post memorials to George Floyd. Following Floyd's death, a 15-year-old started a petition titled "Justice for George Floyd", demanding that all four police officers involved be charged.[196] The petition was both the largest and fastest-growing in the site's history,[196] reaching over 13 million signatures.[197] During this time, multiple videos of the protests, looting, and riots were shared by journalists and protesters with many videos going viral. One such video was of a destroyed and smoky Minneapolis Target store that the poster claimed was damaged during the protests.[198]

Facebook's decision not to remove or label President Trump's tweet of "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" prompted complaints from Facebook employees that political figures were getting a special exemption from the site's content policies. Actions included internal petition, questioning the CEO at an employee town hall, some resignations,[199] and an employee walkout.[200]


A remix of Childish Gambino's song "This is America" and Post Malone's "Congratulations" was used heavily by protesters sharing footage of protests and police action on TikTok.[201] Others used personal Twitter pages to post video documentation of the protests to highlight police and protesters actions, as well as points of the protests they felt would not be reported.[202] One example was a viral photo that appears to show white women protesters standing with their arms locked between Louisville Metro Police Officers and protesters, with the caption describing the image and "This is love. This is what you do with your privilege."[203]

Viral images of officers "taking a knee" with protesters and engaging in joint displays against police brutality, highlighted by hashtags such as #WalkWithUs,[204] have circulated widely on social media.[205] These acts have been identified by some cultural critics as copaganda, or "feel-good images" to boost public relations.[206][207][208] Official social media accounts of police departments boosted positive images of collaboration.[207] In some cases, these displays of solidarity, such as police kneeling, have been recognized as occurring moments before police teargassed crowds or inflicted violence on them.[206][208] An article in The Fader characterized these acts as public relations tactics which were being undermined by police violence, "It feels like we go past the point of no return several times each day."[207]


Protesters in Miami on June 6

American K-pop fan accounts hijacked right wing and pro-Trump hashtags on social media, flooding trending hashtags with images and videos of their favorite artists. Users attempting to look up the hashtags #WhiteLivesMatter, #WhiteoutWednesday and #BlueLivesMatter were met with messages and video clips of dancing idols.[209] After the Dallas Police Department asked Twitter users to submit videos of protesters' illegal activity to its iWatch Dallas app, submissions of K-pop videos led to the temporary removal of the app due to "technical difficulties".[210][211]

On May 28, hacktivist group Anonymous released a video to Facebook and the Minneapolis Police Department entitled "Anonymous Message To The Minneapolis Police Department", in which they state that they are going to seek revenge on the Minneapolis Police Department, and "expose their crimes to the world".[212][213] According to Bloomberg, the video was initially posted on an unconfirmed Anonymous Facebook page.[214]


Official statements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz speculated that there was "an organized attempt to destabilize civil society", initially stating that as many as 80% of the individuals had possibly come from outside the state,[215] and the mayor of St. Paul, Melvin Carter, said everyone arrested in St. Paul on May 29 was from out of state.[216] However, jail records showed that the majority of those arrested were in-state.[217] At a press conference later the same day, Carter explained that he had "shared… arrest data received in [his] morning police briefing which [he] later learned to be inaccurate".[218]

Numerous eyewitness accounts and news reporters indicated that tear gas was used to disperse protesters in Lafayette Square.[219] Despite this evidence, U.S. Park Police officials said, "USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park",[220][221] adding that they only used "pepper balls" and "smoke canisters". Donald Trump's presidential campaign demanded news outlets retract reports of "tear gas" use.[222] President Trump called the reports "fake" and said "they didn't use tear gas."[223]

Press statements

On the night of May 31, exterior lights on the north side of the White House went dark as usual at 11pm,[224] while protesters were demonstrating outside.[225] The Guardian mistakenly reported that "in normal times, they are only ever turned off when a president dies."[226] A 2015 stock photograph of the White House, edited to show the lights turned off, was shared tens of thousands of times online,[227] including by Hillary Clinton.[228] While the photograph did not depict the building at the time of the protests, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley confirmed that the lights "go out at about 11 p.m. almost every night".[225]

Protesters in Eugene, Oregon on June 9

On June 6, the New York Post reported that a NYPD source said $2.4 million of Rolex watches had been looted during protests from a Soho Rolex store.[229] However, the store in question was actually a Watches of Switzerland outlet that denied anything was stolen.[229] Rolex confirmed that "no watches of any kind were stolen, as there weren't any on display in the store."[230]

A June 12 article by The Seattle Times found that Fox News published a photograph of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone that had been digitally altered to include a man armed with an assault rifle.[231] The Fox News website also used a photograph of a burning scene from the Minnesota protests to illustrate their articles on Seattle's protests. Fox removed the images and issued an apology, stating the digitally altered image was a collage that "did not clearly delineate" splicing.[231]

Conspiracy theories

False stories about "Antifa buses" caused panic in rural counties throughout the country, despite there being no evidence that they exist. The Associated Press has cataloged at least five separate rural counties where locals have warned of imminent attacks, although none of the rumors have been substantiated.[232][233] As a result of the rumors, several people have been harassed,[232] including a multi-racial family in Forks, Washington.[234][232] Hundreds of members of armed self-proclaimed militias and far right groups gathered in Gettysburg National Military Park on Independence Day in response to a fake online claim that antifa protesters were planning on burning the U.S. flag.[235]

Some social media users spread images of damage from other protests or incidents, falsely attributing the damage to the George Floyd protests.[236] Some users claimed a man videoed breaking the windows of an AutoZone in Minneapolis on May 27 was an undercover Saint Paul Police officer; the Saint Paul Police Department denied these claims through a statement on Twitter.[237][238] Additionally, SPPD released a montage of surveillance videos in an effort to prove that the officer who was accused of smashing the windows was actually 9 mi (14 km) away when the incident occurred.[239] The man accused of smashing the windows of the AutoZone was later identified by authorities as a white supremacist agitator.[240][82]

Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts associated with spreading a false claim about a communications blackout during protests in Washington, D.C., or a claim that authorities had blocked protesters from communicating on their smartphones.[241] Also, some accounts shared a photo of a major fire burning near the Washington Monument, which was actually an image from a television show.[242][243]

George Soros, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, has been falsely accused by far-right and conservative conspiracy theorists on social media and in online advertisements of orchestrating and funding the protests.[244]

Social effects

A week into the protests, The Washington Post stated that the current situation suggests that the status quo was undergoing a shock, with the article stating "the past days have suggested that something is changing. The protests reached into every corner of the United States and touched nearly every strand of society."[245] Joe Biden told Politico that he had experienced an awakening and thought other White Americans had as well, saying: "Ordinary folks who don't think of themselves as having a prejudiced bone in their body, don't think of themselves as racists, have kind of had the mask pulled off."[246] Large amounts of journalistic and academic sources have viewed the protests as forcing Americans to face racial inequality, police brutuality and other racial and economic issues. Many have stated that the current unrest is due to the current political and cultural system of overlooking, ignoring and oppression of Black Americans, calling it a racial reckoning. Politico said the killing of George Floyd, captured on video, had "prompted a reckoning with racism [...] for a wide swath of white America."[246] Deva Woodly, Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research, wrote: "We are living in a world-historical moment."[247] NPR said that "a change of attitude seems to have swept through the national culture like a sudden wind."[248] CNN's Brianna Keilar said that "[y]ou are watching America's reckoning" as she outlined the "profound change" the country had experienced, including that in mid-June 15 of the 20 bestselling books were about race.[249]

In late June, the The Christian Science Monitor's editorial board wrote: "It may still be too soon to say the U.S. has reached a true inflection point in its treatment of its citizens of African descent. But it has certainly reached a reflection point."[250] Reuters reported that Black candidates in June's primaries had benefited from "a national reckoning on racism."[251] By early July, The Washington Post was running a regularly updated section titled "America's Racial Reckoning: What you need to know."[252] On July 3, The Washington Post said that "the Black Lives Matter protests following the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks focused the world's attention on racial inequities, structural racism and implicit bias."[253]

Economic impact

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell noted on June 10 "historically high unemployment" prevalent during the prelude of the protests.[254]

According to Fortune, the economic impact of the protests has exacerbated the 2020 coronavirus recession by sharply curtailing consumer confidence, straining local businesses, and overwhelming public infrastructure with large-scale property damage.[255] A number of small businesses, already suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, were harmed by vandalism, property destruction, and looting.[256][257] Curfews instated by local governments – in response to both the pandemic and protests – have also "restricted access to the downtown [areas]" to essential workers, lowering economic output.[255] President Donald Trump, after announcing a drop in overall unemployment from 14.7% to 13.3% on June 5, stated that strong economic growth was "the greatest thing [for race relations]" and "George Floyd would have been proud [of the unemployment rate]".[258] That same day reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the unemployment rate among African Americans (covering the first two weeks of protests) was up 0.1%, rising to 16.8%.[259]

The U.S. stock market remained unaffected or otherwise increased from the start of the protests on May 26 to June 2.[260] The protest's first fortnight coincided with a 38% rise in the stock market.[261] A resurgence of coronavirus (facilitated by mass protests) could exacerbate the 2020 stock market crash according to economists at RBC.[262] The protests have disrupted national supply chains over uncertainty regarding public safety, a resurgence of COVID-19, and consumer confidence. Several Fortune 500 retail companies, with large distribution networks, have scaled back deliveries and shuttered stores in high-impact areas.[255] Mass demonstrations – of both peaceful and violent varieties – have been linked to diminished consumer confidence and demand stemming from the public health risks of group gatherings amid COVID-19.[255]

A looted Cub Foods supermarket in Minneapolis on May 28

Large-scale property damage stemming from the protests has led to increased insurance claims, bankruptcies, and curbed economic activity among small businesses and state governments. Insurance claims arising from property damage suffered in rioting is still being assessed, but is thought to be significant, perhaps record-breaking.[263] The City of Minneapolis' Community Planning & Economic Development Department gave an early estimate of at least 220 buildings damaged and $55 million in property damage in the city from fires and vandalism, centered on the Lake Street area; city and state officials have requested state and federal aid to rebuild and repair.[264][265] Later estimates projected damages to be upwards of $500 million.[4] Among the losses was Minnehaha Commons, an under-construction, $30 million redevelopment project for 189 units of affordable housing, which was destroyed by fire after being torched on May 27.[266][267] A community organization in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood said that between $10 million and $15 million in property damage (excluding losses from looting) was incurred over the weekend of May 29–31, mostly along storefronts along Peachtree Street and Phipps Plaza.[268] The damage to downtown Chicago's central business district (near the Magnificent Mile) was reported to have sustained "millions of dollars in damage" according to Fortune.[255]

Public financing and funding, particularly on the state level, has also been impacted by the protests. The coronavirus recession has eroded large parts of state budgets which have, subsequently, struggled to finance the police overtime pay, security costs, and infrastructure repairs related to the demonstrations.[255] State governments have, since June, announced budget cuts to police departments as well as increased funding to other public safety measures. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on June 5 he will seek up to $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department budget.[269]

On May 31, Walmart temporarily closed several hundred of its stores as a precaution. Amazon announced it would redirect some delivery routes and scale back others as a result of the widespread unrest.[270]

Monuments and symbols

Vandalized monument of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, on July 1, 2020

A makeshift memorial emerged at the East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection in Minneapolis where Floyd was killed. Minneapolis officials renamed a stretch two block stretch of Chicago Avenue as George Floyd Perry Jr Place and designated it as one of seven cultural districts in city.[271][272][273]

Scrutiny of, discussion of removal, and removal of civic symbols or names relating to the Confederate States of America (frequently associated with segregation and the Jim Crow era in the United States) has regained steam as protests have continued.[274] On June 4, 2020, Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond would be removed.[275]

On June 5, making specific reference to events in Charlottesville in 2017, the United States Marine Corps banned the display of the Confederate Battle Flag at their installations.[276][277] The United States Navy followed suit on June 9 at the direction of Michael M. Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations.[278]

Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park. The Alabama Attorney General has filed suit against the city of Birmingham for violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.[279]

A statue of America's first president, George Washington, has been torn down and American flag was burned by rioters in Portland, Oregon.[280] Portland Public Schools was responding after protesters pulled down the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of Jefferson High School. Several protesters tore down the statue of the third President of the United States and wrote: "slave owner" and "George Floyd" in spray paint at its white marble base. PPS officials said they recognize that the act is part of a larger and very important national conversation.[281] The statues targeted included a bust of Ulysses S. Grant and statue of Theodore Roosevelt.[282][283] BLM activist Shaun King tweeted that statues, murals, and stained glass windows depicting a white Jesus should be removed.[284] Protesters defaced a statue of Philadelphia abolitionist Matthias Baldwin with the words "murderer" and "colonizer".[285] Protesters in San Francisco vandalized a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish writer who spent five years as a slave in Algiers.[286]

Vandals defaced the statue of Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square and Queen Victoria's statue in Leeds.[287][288] The Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the statue of General Casimir Pulaski were vandalized during the George Floyd protests in Washington, D.C.[289] On June 7, the statue of Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into Bristol Harbour by demonstrators during the George Floyd protests in the United Kingdom.[290] BLM activists in London are calling for the removal of 60 statues of historical figures like Prime Ministers Charles Grey and William Gladstone, Horatio Nelson, Sir Francis Drake, King Charles II of England, Oliver Cromwell and Christopher Columbus.[291] Protesters in Belgium have vandalized statues of King Leopold II of Belgium.[292]

In Washington, D.C., a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy was vandalized on the intervening night of June 2 and 3. The incident prompted the embassy to register a complaint with law enforcement agencies. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, called the vandalism "a crime against humanity".[293][294][295] In London, another statue of Gandhi was vandalized by Black Lives Matter protesters along with the statue of Winston Churchill.[296]

On June 12, the city council in Hamilton, New Zealand removed the statue of Captain John Hamilton, a British officer who was killed during the New Zealand Wars in 1864.[297] A local Māori elder Taitimu Maipi, who had vandalized the statue in 2018, has also called for the city to be renamed Kirikiriroa.[298] New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called the scrutiny of colonial-era memorials a "wave of idiocy".[299]

The pedestal of a Christopher Columbus statue that was thrown into the Baltimore inner harbor on July 4, 2020

On June 22, a crowd of rioters unsuccessfully attempted to topple Clark Mills' 1852 bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square in President's Park, directly north of the White House in Washington, D.C.[300] Several days later, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) charged four men with destruction of federal property for allegedly trying to bring down the statue. The Justice Department alleged that a video showed one of the men breaking off and destroying the wheels of the cannons located at the base of the statue as well as pulling on ropes when trying to bring down the statue.[301]

Soon afterwards, the DOJ announced the arrest and charging of a man who was not only allegedly seen on video climbing up onto the Jackson statue and affixing a rope that was then used to try to pull the statue down, but had on June 20 helped destroy Gaetano Trentanove's 1901 Albert Pike Memorial statue near Washington's Judiciary Square by pulling it from its base and setting it on fire. The DOJ's complaint alleged that the man had been captured on video dousing the federally-owned Pike statue with a flammable liquid, igniting it as it lay on the ground and using the fire to light a cigarette.[302]

On June 30, after the Mississippi Legislature obtained a two-thirds majority in both houses to suspend rules in order to pass a bill addressing the Confederate Battle Flag on the Mississippi state flag, Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill that relinquished the state flag, mandated its removal from public premises within 15 days, and established a commission to propose a new flag design that excluded the Confederate Battle Flag and included the motto "In God We Trust".[303][304][305][306] The flag contained the infamous Confederate symbol in the canton (upper left corner) of the flag, and was the last U.S. state flag to do so.[307][308][309]

During a speech on July 3 at Mount Rushmore, U.S. president Donald Trump denounced the monument removals as part of a "left wing cultural revolution" to "overthrow the American revolution".[310]

On July 13, the Washington Redskins announced that their name and logo would be retired upon completion of "a thorough review of the name" that was first announced on July 3.[311][312]

A week-long tour began July 28 in which a hologram of Floyd was projected on a monument to be removed, thereby "replacing" the monument with Floyd. Richmond, Virginia was the first stop.[313]

In the response to the protests, Congress mandated the creation of a Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.[314] President Trump cited this provision in his veto of the NDAA,[315] resulting in the only veto override of his presidency.[316]

Impact on police activity

Police take a knee during protests in Philadelphia on June 2

According to Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis police union, officers began retiring "en masse"[317] alongside morale being at an "all-time low".[317]

Around 170 Atlanta police officers walked off of the job in mid-June following unresolved grievances in Rayshard Brooks case.[318]

The New York City Police Department reported a 411% increase in police retirement application in the first week of July.[319] As a result, the Department has limited new retirement applications to 40 a day.[320][321]


On July 11, at least 150 Minneapolis police officers reported nondescript injuries as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, leading over half of them to leave their jobs with more likely to follow.[317] The Minneapolis police have denied there being any serious injuries inflicted on officers.[317]

Changes to police policies

In the wake of Floyd's killing, state and local governments evaluated their police department policies, and the response to protests, for themselves. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for new police crowd control procedures for the state, and the banning of the police use of carotid chokeholds, which starve the brain of oxygen.[322] The Minneapolis police department banned police from using chokeholds;[323] Denver's police department also banned the use of chokeholds without exception, and also established new reporting requirements whenever a police officer holds a person at gunpoint.[324]

In June 2020, Democrats in Congress introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a police reform and accountability bill that contains measures to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. The impetus for the bill were the killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans at the hands of police.[35][325][326] It passed the House of Representatives one month after Floyd's killing, 236 to 181, with support from Democrats and three Republicans.[327] A Republican reform bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate by all but two Democrats; neither party negotiated the contents of the bill with the other.[327] Speaker Nancy Pelosi summarized Democratic opposition to the Senate bill: "it's not a question that it didn't go far enough; it didn't go anywhere".[328]

"Defund the Police", a phrase popularized by BLM during the George Floyd protests

On June 16, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform that incentivized departments to recruit from communities they patrol, encourage more limited use of deadly force, and prioritize using social workers and mental health professionals for nonviolent calls.[329] The order also created a national database of police officers with a history of using excessive force.[330]

On September 10, Ted Wheeler, the mayor and police commissioner of Portland, Oregon, banned city police from using tear gas for riot control purposes, but reiterated that police would respond to violent protests forcefully. Portland has seen over a 100 consecutive days of protests since they began on May 28.[331]

Push to abolish police

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council — a veto-proof majority — pledged on June 7 to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, despite opposition from Mayor Frey.[332][333] U.S. representative Ilhan Omar stated, "the Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform. It's time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis."[334] Despite pledges by city council members to the end the Minneapolis Police Department, a proposed amendment to the Minneapolis city charter which was approved by the Minneapolis City Council on June 26 would only rename the police department and change its structure if approved by voters.[335] In August, the review of another proposal to dismantle the department was delayed by 90 days, meaning it wouldn't be voted on in the November ballot because it passed the statutory deadline of August 21.[336] The budget for the department was passed in December and the funding was reduced by $7.7 million.[337]

Television and films

In the media industry, the protests have spurred scrutiny for cop shows and led to the cancellation of popular television shows referred to by critics as copaganda.[338][339] With long-standing criticism that it presented an unbalanced view of law enforcement in favor of police, encouraged police to engage in more dramatic behavior for the camera, and degraded suspects who had not yet been convicted of any crime, the Paramount Network canceled the 33rd season of the TV show Cops and pulled it from broadcast.[340] The television network A&E canceled a similar show, Live PD, which was also found to have destroyed footage documenting the police killing of Javier Ambler in Austin, Texas, in 2019.[341] The streaming service HBO Max temporarily pulled the film Gone with the Wind until video that explains and condemns the film's racist depictions could be produced to accompany it.[342] In the United Kingdom, the BBC pulled the famed "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers from its UKTV streaming service, but later reinstated it after criticism from series star and co-writer John Cleese. He later criticized their use of the word "fury" to describe his comments.[343] This was later removed by the BBC.[344] The episode, which included racial slurs about the West Indies cricket team, now features a disclaimer at the beginning warning of "offensive content and language".[345][346][347] The BBC also removed the Little Britain series and its spinoff Come Fly with Me from the iPlayer and BritBox services as well as Netflix for its use of blackface.[348]

The week of June 24, 2020, several animated series that had black, mixed or non-white characters voiced by white actors, including Big Mouth, Central Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, announced those characters would be recast with people of color.[349][350][351][352] That same week, episodes of 30 Rock, The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, The Golden Girls, and Peep Show that involved characters using blackface were either removed or edited from syndication and streaming services.[353][354][355][356]

In light of the protests, Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Terry Crews said that the first four episodes of the show's eighth season had to be rewritten.[357]

Theme parks

In June 2020, Disney announced that their theme park attraction Splash Mountain, which is themed to the 1946 film Song of the South, controversial for its depiction of African-Americans, will be re-themed in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom into an attraction based on the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog. Disney stated that the project had been in development since 2019. The New York Times reported that Disney executives had been privately discussing removing the attraction's Song of the South theme for at least five years, before putting into development the Princess and the Frog theme, and that Disney stated that the public announcement of the project was sped up due to the current conversations about race.[358][359][360]

Impact on brand marketing

In reaction to the higher sensitivity by customers for racial issues, multiple companies decided to rebrand some products. Examples:


The unrest was followed by an unprecedented number of firearms being transferred inside of the United States.[361]

Background checks for legally purchased firearms reached record highs in May[362] with year-on-year numbers up 80.2%.[363][364][365][366] In June 2020 the FBI reported running 3.9 million NICS checks for persons purchasing a firearm or firearms.[367] This represented the highest monthly number of firearms transfers since the FBI began keeping records in 1998.[368]

Firearms retailers surveyed by National Shooting Sports Foundation in May estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers, 40% of those first-time gun buyers were women, a relatively high rate for that demographic group. Though gun sales have been up across the country, a rise in first-time gun buyers in left-leaning states like California have helped fuel the national uptick in firearms and ammunition purchases.[369] June 2020 represented the largest month of firearms purchases in United States history, with Illinois purchasing more firearms than any other state.[370]

The last days of May and first week of June, there were more than 90 attempted or successful burglaries of gun stores, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. More than 1,000 guns were stolen in that window of time. On May 31 alone the BATF reported 29 separate burglaries targeting licensed firearm retailers.[371][372]

Impact on COVID-19 transmission

Concerns by officials

The mass protests occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic and officials and experts warned they could facilitate an accelerated or rebounding spread of COVID-19.[373][374][375][376][377][378][379][380] A number of current and former public health officials also expressed concerns that mass protests would lead to a spike in COVID-19 clusters, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield,[381] U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams,[382] National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci,[383] and former Trump administration FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.[375] These concerns were echoed by a number of elected officials, including Minnesota Governor Tim Walz,[384] New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,[375][385] Maryland Governor Larry Hogan,[375] California Governor Gavin Newsom,[386] Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms,[387] and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.[374] Abroad, Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt[388][389] and British Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to avoid mass gatherings.[390][391][392][393] Martin Seychell, a health official at the EU Commission, said that mass events could be a major route of transmission like for any infectious respiratory disease and that the likelihood and size of a second wave would depend on the effective maintaining of social distancing measures and other factors.[394][395] Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Nottingham University, England stated there is "clear evidence that banning mass gatherings was one of the most effective and important parts of the lockdowns across European countries".[391] While expressing disappointment at the flouting of social distancing rules, Police Minister Stuart Nash indicated that New Zealand Police were not seeking to prosecute protest organizers and participants.[396]

A number of officials, including Cuomo, Bottoms, and Minnesota health officials, recommended that anyone who attended a demonstration receive COVID-19 testing.[385][387][397][398]

Multiple governors attended street protests even though they appeared to violate their own orders to ensure social distancing.[399]


Masked protesters in Philadelphia on June 2

In June 2020 the CDC released the "Considerations for Events and Gatherings" which assesses large gatherings where it is difficult for people to stay at least six feet apart, and where attendees travel from outside the local area as "highest risk".[400]

Masks and distancing

Speaking about public health implications of demonstrations, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that "Masks can help, but it's masks plus physical separation".[401] Ashish Jha, Director of the Global Health Institute at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, "The question is: how do we do protesting safely? I think masks are a critical part of it."[387] Theodore Long, a doctor affiliated with New York's contact tracing strategy, echoed Jha's point, and advocated "proper hand hygiene and to the extent possible, socially distance".[387] Many participants of the protests with potentially unclear current and prior-infection-status – including some police officers – did not wear a face mask at all times,[402] or adhere to other public safety guidelines.[379]

George Floyd's family encouraged those attending the official public memorial to wear masks and gloves,[403] as did multiple officials, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney who asked demonstrators to follow social distancing guidelines,[404] New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who asked protesters to wear masks,[375] and Minnesota's governor who warned that "too many" protesters were not applying physical person-to-person distances or wearing masks.[379]

Overcrowded jails

Hundreds of people arrested by police in New York City – including both peaceful demonstrators and persons accused of violence – were detained in overcrowded, sometimes unsanitary holding cells, sometimes without face masks, prompting concerns over jail-spread COVID-19 cases.[405] The Legal Aid Society sued the New York City Police Department, accusing it of detaining people for extended periods (up to three days) in violation of New York state law requiring that arrests receive arraignments within 24 hours. The department acknowledged that "it was common for up to two dozen people to be held for hours on buses before being taken to be booked" due to large backlogs and paperwork delays and that social distancing was impossible within jails, but a state trial court denied Legal Aid's request, given the "crisis within a crisis".[405]

Other factors

A protester in Vancouver, Canada, with "Please give me space. I am diabetic and more [susceptible] to COVID-19" written on their shirt

The use of tear gas may increase the spread of the virus due to coughing and lung damage.[406] Smoke and pepper spray may also increase its spread.[376] Shouting and speaking loudly, which are common to both violent and non-violent protests, may also cause infections at distances greater than 6 feet (1.8 m). Research has found that the share of infections due to a single infected person in a choir can be almost 90%,[402] and that just a few contagious people can infect hundreds of susceptible people around them.[407] Outdoor events may have a substantially lower risk of spreading the disease than indoor ones,[408][409] and the "transient" moments of people moving around may be less-hazardous than longer durations of proximity.[409]

Debate over weighing of risks

Over 1,200 medical staff signed a letter criticizing what they called "emerging narratives that seemed to malign demonstrations as risky for the public health because of Covid-19".[410] The letter writers wrote:

Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy. However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders.[410]

Most protesters in Minneapolis interviewed by Wired magazine said they "participated with full knowledge of the health risks, and believe police brutality to be an even more urgent existential threat".[411] Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC director, said that if trust in government "is undermined by violent policing, or it's undermined by ham-handed public health actions that don't respect communities, that's going to have a negative impact on our ability to fight disease".[399] Frieden has faced considerable backlash for these remarks, most notably from Jonah Goldberg.[412]

Criticisms also arose of health officials and physicians potentially "politicizing science", as officials have given varying responses for different protests.[413] Thomas Chatterton Williams said "the public health narrative around coronavirus ... reversed itself overnight" in the wake of the protests.[414] Glenn Greenwald also criticized the response of public health officials and epidemiologists, asking, "How is it remotely within the scope of the expertise of epidemiologists to pick and choose which political protests should be permitted and/or encouraged and which ones banned and/or denounced?"[415]

Preliminary results

An Indiana National Guardsman from the 76th Infantry Brigade talks to a Washington, D.C. resident at the National Mall on June 6

Researchers reported that the protests did not appear to be driving an increase in coronavirus transmission.[416] A study issued in June 2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private non-profit organization, found "no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset",[417] as well as "no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests, and even modest evidence of a small longer-run case growth decline".[417] Epidemiologists and other researchers suggested the protests had a relatively low impact on COVID-19 transmission because the protests took place outdoors where the virus is less likely to spread as compared to indoors;[416][418] because many protesters wore masks;[418] and because persons who demonstrated made up a small portion of the overall U.S. population (about 6% of adults).[419]

Authorities did not report increases in coronavirus cases as a result of the protests in New York City,[418] or in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington.[416] Minnesota launched an effort to test people who demonstrated, and found that 1.5% tested positive.[416] Similarly in Massachusetts, fewer than 3% tested positive.[418] On June 17 and 18, Massachusetts administered free COVID-19 testing and reported that 2.5% tested positive, which was "reasonably consistent" with the general population testing positive at 1.9%.[420] In King County, Washington, less than 5% of 1,008 total positive cases were traced by health investigators to persons who attended a protest.[416] In contrast, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health asserted on June 22 that it was "highly likely" that a surge in cases is connected to the protests, as well as the lifting of the county stay-at-home order.[416][421]

Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University found that, of three modeled scenarios with mask-wearing and open air suppressing transmission, "the most optimistic scenario turned out to be most accurate."[422] However, Shaman and other researchers and officials caution that protesters are disproportionately young, and less likely to become ill, and there is significant uncertainty about the effect of various factors.[422][418] While many states in the U.S. saw record highs of new cases, these upticks are thought to be attributed to reopenings of workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other businesses.[419]

In June, a large number of Houston Police Department officers tested positive for the virus or were quarantined after being exposed; police chief Art Acevedo said that none of the officers were seriously ill, and suggested that business reopenings in Texas were more likely the cause of the spread among officers than protest duty, saying "We opened up the state very quickly, especially bars and, you know, I can't control what people do off duty."[423] Members of the D.C. National Guard have also tested positive for COVID-19 after protests.[424]


U.S. president Donald Trump walks to St. John's Church amid protests in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020

Many countries, companies, organizations, and celebrities worldwide sent messages of concern about the George Floyd killing and protests. Some television channels blacked out regular programming for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in solidarity with the protests while some celebrities and companies made donations to racial justice organizations. Some politicians also participated in the protests, while others called for protesters to refrain from violence.

U.S. president Donald Trump demanded that state governors "dominate" protesters and, on May 29, tweeted "when the looting starts, the shooting starts", which Twitter marked as "glorifying violence".[425][426] Trump later said he was not advocating violence, noting that the tweet could be read as either a threat or a statement of fact and that he intended for it to be read as "a combination of both".[427] Trump controversially deployed various federal law enforcement agencies, the District of Columbia National Guard, and the Arlington County Police Department to clear Lafayette Square and surrounding streets for a photo-op at St. John's Church.[428]

See also


  1. See Violence and controversies section for more details and citations.


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Further reading

Arrangement is chronological.

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