Black Lives Matter protests spark throughout the US

Ryan Wu, Staff Writer

Protests and riots broke out nationwide following the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed May 25 while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. 

The circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death sparked reaction following a video that went viral on social media last week. While in police custody for alleged forgery, despite Floyd showing no apparent signs of resistance to arrest, Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. Floyd died shortly after in a nearby hospital following a cardiac arrest. Chauvin has been arrested on third degree murder charges, and an indepedent autopsy has labelled the death as a homicide. 

At least 40 cities across 24 states have witnessed protests in response to Floyd’s death over a span of six days and counting, according to The New York Times. As of June 1, at least six protestors were killed and several officers have been shot, with thousands more arrested and injured. 

“It is extremely important for allies of the black community to let people of color know that we see, hear and support them,” junior Keilani Trout said. “However, we must spread the message of Black Lives Matter while remaining peaceful and respectful to the city and police.” 

Protests took place on May 31 and June 2 at Irvine City Hall as participants made their way across surrounding streets. Several Northwood students participated in these, including Trout and junior Arlyn Pandes. During the demonstration on Sunday, Pandes held a hand-drawn sign that read “There Comes a Time When Silence Is Betrayal.”

“This is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam,” Pandes said. “Like the situation then, many people today just wait around for things to normalize when it is very important for them to speak out and demand justice.” 

Public demonstrations in Irvine were rather peaceful. At the Civic Center, dozens of protestors marched while holding signs and chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police” amongst other phrases. Some cars passing by honked in support of the protests. Overall, Irvine Police had little interaction with the protesters. 

“We will support peaceful protests, as we did [Sunday], but we won’t tolerate demonstrators who resort to violence or property destruction,” Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel said in a Facebook post.

Several areas in Southern California including Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Los Angeles have placed curfews in an effort to deter conflict and looting, where protests were required to end for the day by a certain time. The Irvine Company, which operates most shopping centers in Irvine, has asked all businesses in their centers to close at 5 p.m. until tensions ease. Over 900 people in Southern California were arrested on the weekend of May 30-31 for looting, vandalism and violation of curfew. The National Guard was also deployed to areas where protests turned violent, such as Long Beach.

As for Irvine, some local officials are cautiously optimistic about the community’s response. 

“I’m very proud of our community here in Irvine,” Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan said to The Howler. “I think the people understand that not only are we going through a pandemic, but at the same time we are going through a social situation that requires everyone’s focus.”