An update on the riots that have been going on around the nation for the last six months

Beginning in late May, protests began to break out across the country following the death of George Floyd. Floyd’s arrest and death was caught on camera, as a member of the Minneapolis Police Department kneeled on Floyd’s neck. Throughout the video, he is heard repeatedly telling the cop, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

In the following days, the video spread around the internet, causing protests to begin in Minneapolis and spread throughout the rest of the country. Peaceful protests quickly turned violent, causing businesses to shut down and the National Guard to be deployed. 

In recent months, the violent protests have largely ceased, except for a few violent outbursts. Many found the violent aspects of the protests to be unproductive, including Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar who stated in June, “Every single fire set ablaze, every single store that is looted, every time our community finds itself in danger, it is time that people are not spending talking about getting justice for George Floyd.”

Regardless of whether or not the violent elements of the protests are helpful, the protests are making headlines and causing discussions across America. According to a Pew Research Study discussing the most prominent topics in current news, 78 percent of U.S. adults stated they “have heard or read a lot about ongoing confrontations between law enforcement and protesters in cities around the country.”

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recently released data regarding the protests, claiming that 10,600 demonstration events occurred throughout the country between the dates of May 26 and Aug. 22. The ACLED stated that “Over 10,100 of these — or nearly 95% — involve peaceful protesters. Fewer than 570 — or approximately 5% — involve demonstrators engaging in violence.” 

Since the violence and looting during the protests was displayed across social media platforms and news outlets, Americans are majorly split in their views of what occurred during those three months. According to the Washington Post, 70 percent of liberals believe the protests were primarily peaceful, while 66 percent of conservatives believe they were primarily violent. 

In cases of violent protests involving looting and vandalism, 47 percent of Americans believe that law enforcement should have used more force on the crowds. 

According to these statistics, it is possible that opinions on the topic of protests are largely split by ideology, as Democrats and Republicans are both respectively backing up their side of the aisle. 

Since riots and violent protests made up only roughly five percent of all demonstrations, what does it mean when a large portion of the American people are led to believe otherwise? An article by the Nieman Lab describes how this phenomenon can occur when the media showcases the most “news-worthy” moments of the protests on TV and social media platforms. 

A NiemnLab article by Danielle Kilgo explains this.

“Overall, news coverage tended to trivialize protests by focusing most often on dramatic action,” said Kilgo. “But some protests suffeed more than others. Reports focused on spectacle more often than substance. Much was made of what protesters were wearing, crowd sizes — large and small, celebrity involvement and flaring tempers.”

Statistics have shown a discrepancy between the truth of what the protests stood for, and the media coverage that represented them. 

Regardless of media coverage, Black Lives Matter protests are still occurring nightly around the nation calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more.