On May 25, George Floyd died in police custody. He was arrested when a cashier at his local corner store called the police on him for allegedly using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill.
Later that day, an onlooker posted a video of Floyd’s death to Facebook, which quickly went globally viral and sparked a new wave of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement, founded in 2013, advocates for civil rights, protests against police brutality and violent, racially charged actions against Black people. The main goal of the movement is to liberate Black people and end white supremacy.
When the protests started, they asked for the officer who killed George Floyd, Derek Chauvin, to be charged with murder. One day after Floyd’s death, Chauvin was fired from his job, but was never charged for his crime. Protests across the country are still continuing today.
By May 29, all 50 states and several other countries had several Black Lives Matter protests. Michigan had protests in Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, Saginaw, Mount Pleasant and Bay City, among many other cities.
The largest protest in Saginaw was partially put together by SVSU’s own Simone Vaughn, a communication senior, and five other people.
Vaughn said she was expecting a turnout of 200-300 people, but ended the day with over 2,000 people at the protest on June 2. She said she attended a protest in Detroit a few days before the one she helped host in Saginaw.
The Detroit protest became violent. “I did not want that here in Saginaw,” Vaughn said. “The main thing I wanted to stand for was peace.” Vaughn said her goal of a peaceful protest was met. “No police were needed,” she said. “They were there, but not needed. We had Marshalls and all of that ready to go and organized.” She said there was a good turnout of SVSU students. “We had Saginaw students travel from home,” Vaughn said. “Whether it was an hour or two hours away, they came for the protest. I was very shocked to see how many SVSU students came. It was like a family reunion.”
Vaughn said the main thing the protests stood for was stopping additional deaths. “We are done dying,” Vaughn said. “A lot of people think we are protesting over George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor. No. We’re protesting over hundreds and hundreds of African American individuals who’ve been done wrong, who’ve been killed or just had an injustice brought upon them.”
Graphic design sophomore Aidan Gant expressed disappointment about the lack of change seen even after the protests.
“We haven’t made progress,” he said. “Cops are still targeting Black Lives Matter protestors and specifically avoiding white people. The punishment for cops and white people [compared to a Black person] is still disproportionate.” Vaughn said she also believes the movement has a long way to go.
“I think the awareness of Black Lives Matter has taken off,” she said. “However, I still think we have a bit of time before everyone fully understands what we stand for. Bottom line, we’ve gotten the awareness, but we haven’t gotten the change.”
Gant offered some ideas on how the movement can begin moving in a direction that can bring true change.
“I feel that the real work is done in person,” Gant said. “The internet, no matter how it’s used, is not as effective as doing things in person. When someone is making a casual, racist comment, turning it into an actual discussion and making people feel uncomfortable for casual, inappropriate comments would help.