Kristina Knox, a 25-year-old child development teacher from Maryland, cried for several days after watching video footage of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis who died after the police officer kneeled on his neck while Floyd gasped for air.
She had posted about high-profile episodes of police brutality wielded against black Americans on her social websites accounts before she attended her first protest this week – spurred, in part, by hoping to generate a better world on her two-year-old son.
“I’m over being walked physically, mentally, emotionally and over” Knox said with a protest outside the US Capitol. “Enough will do.”
Floyd’s death has sparked protests nationwide and round the world, engulfing city streets with a large number of demonstrators.
Lots of the demonstrators who milled throughout the US Capitol in the week were black individuals their twenties who, like Knox, had felt compelled after Floyd’s death to march for the streets initially.
The US has long been rocked by demonstrations over police killing of unarmed black men, women and boys over the last decade. In the most widespread protests, once the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, a lot of the protesters in Washington D.C. this week were just teens themselves.
New demonstrators said they had been driven to protest after seeing too many hearing and videos too many stories about black Americans dying at the hands of police officers – and through their concerns about the future of the continent itself.
“It’s not to say that Ferguson did not anger us, but there’s definitely something different about this moment, especially because it is an election year,” said Arianna Evans, 23, a political science student, who attends Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.
“We’re grappling using the soul of this country this season,” Evans said. If US President Donald Trump isn’t voted out of office, and a new generation doesn’t push for the reforms they want, “we may never see that chance.”
The protests are broadly loved by Americans. 64% of American adults were sympathetic and 55% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump handled them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Trump, who seems to be seeking re-election in November, has suggested to some governors to bring in the National Guard.
Though it may be not clear the way in which many people taking to the streets in protests over the past nine days are first-timers, organizers say the number of new protesters is significant.
Freedom Fighters DC, a newly formed group that has hosted multiple demonstrations within Washington, claimed that about 150 were first-time protesters with the 500 or so protesters away from Capitol building on Wednesday.
Alayshia Florida, 20, a self-described first-time protester who is headed to nursing school this fall, convinced a white officer to kneel along with her away from US Capitol Wednesday, amid cheers.
“It’s time we change how police officers view us by inviting them to see us as humankind,” she said.
Asked what made this moment different, Kelsey Marshman, a 29-year-old mail handler, said: “It’s 2020! This ought not to be happening still. It really shouldn’t. I’m sick and tired of there being video and those police (officers) not being held liable for that.”
The protesters’ demands include better police-sensitivity training, rather more serious background record checks and convictions against the law enforcement officers in the case.
Derek Chauvin, police officers officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, has become arrested for second-degree murder. Minnesota sentencing guidelines advise that someone convicted for second-degree murder without any criminal history receive between 30 and 22 years in prison. If they secure a conviction against Chauvin, but Christa Groshek, a defense attorney in Minneapolis, said prosecutors would likely seek more than that.
Minnesota also filed a civil rights charge up against the Minneapolis Police Department over Floyd’s death and said it would investigate the department for systemic discriminatory practices.
In the hot, sunny day in Washington on Wednesday, volunteers passed out hand and water sanitizer, in a very bid to lower risks through the coronavirus pandemic.
Most protesters wore masks because they held up handmade signs bearing phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Shooting” and “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
“The people rose up against oppression in 2020. Were we successful stopping it? I doubt it,” said Lorenzo Bell, 36. “But did we merely allow them to do it? … No.”