Across the country over the weekend, civilians took to the streets, blocking roadways while echoing a long-storied battle cry of justice and peace. The protests were in honor of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two men killed by police last week.
Sterling and Castile’s deaths were both captured on camera. We as a nation watched as they took their final breaths. Sterling was killed by a cop in front of a corner store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday night, while Castile was shot by a Minnesota officer during a traffic stop on Wednesday.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of protesters shut down highway I-40 in Memphis, Tennessee, after a 6 p.m. gathering at FedExForum.
WREG reports that although tensions rose, there were no reported arrests.
“It felt good that the city came out and united together,” activist Frank Gotti told WREG. Gotti helped organize the rally at FedExForum. “We got to do this until our words get heard.”
Protesters in Atlanta took a similar approach on Friday, blocking off Interstates 75 and 85, then moved into the Midtown business district. At a smaller protest on Saturday, 11 people were arrested, according to CNN.
There were many more protests in cities like Miami, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York over the last week.
In Cleveland, Al Sharpton, one of the leading civil rights activists, canceled a city-wide march scheduled for July 17, after five police officers were shot to death at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas on Thursday, Cleveland.com reports.
The march, sponsored by Sharpton and his organization, the National Action Network, released a statement: “In the current uncertain environment nationwide, we are concerned for police officers who would be charged with protecting our marchers and advocates as well as for the safety and wellbeing of our march participants.”
But most of the tension centered around protests in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, two cities still reeling after the shooting deaths of hometown natives Sterling and Castile.
In St. Paul, protesters and police clashed on Interstate 94. CNN reports bottles, bricks, and fireworks were thrown at the police. As many as 200 people forced past the Minnesota State Patrol troopers, leading to over 100 arrests.
On Saturday night, over 100 protesters were arrested in Baton Rouge, including activist DeRay Mckesson. He was later released on Sunday afternoon.
Mckesson’s arrest brings up a larger narrative of how protesters are treated by police officers. Photos of the Baton Rouge protests visually represent two narratives: the right to assemble, juxtaposed by images of police in riot gear saddled with guns, helmets, shields, and batons.
The Washington Post writes:
Black Lives Matter activists worried that this swampy state capital, with its history of slavery and civil rights struggle, could be the next Ferguson, Mo. — another medium-size U.S. city with a predominantly black population and a predominantly white police force ill-equipped or unwilling to respond to the grievances of black Americans, or deal with protests for better rights.
An article by The New York Daily News shows the BRPD has a long history of internal affairs investigations. In the most recent year of available data, the BRPD investigated 35 use of force complaints, but not one case led to charges against the officers involved.
As he was released from jail on Sunday morning, Mckesson broached the subject, “I remain disappointed in the Baton Rouge police who continue to provoke protesters who were peacefully protesting.” He also asked that the DOJ take a look at the treatment of protesters by the officers who are paid to protect and serve.
As the protests will no doubt continue on, social media continues to serve as an important medium, and changes the narrative surrounding the plight of protesters and police.