It’s been over a year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a death that sparked worldwide protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, hundreds of thousands gathered to protest against racial injustice.
Let’s take a look at what has happened since then.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was charged and significantly, found guilty, of the murder of George Floyd. Convictions in cases like these are rare, and this was seen as a major turning point for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the U.S, there has been some movement around police reform, but most of it at the local level. The discourse around defunding and abolishing the police has gained attention too, particularly on the local level. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a bill that was drafted after the series of protests that followed Floyd’s death. The House of Representatives members drafted and introduced the bill that aims to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. The bill has had many revisions and is yet to be voted upon by the Senate.
In Australia, the focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement continues to be the mistreatment of First Nations people and deaths in custody. Since the protests, there has been increased media and political attention, but not the material change that the movement is seeking. In NSW, a parliamentary committee was set up at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020 – it unanimously recommended that the state’s police watchdog, the Law Enforcement and Conduct Commission, investigate deaths in custody. 39 recommendations were made in the report that was handed down in April this year. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, there have been over 470 Aboriginal Deaths in custody, including the case of David Dungay mentioned in the story above.
The black squares
The BLM movement was especially prominent on social media. Instagram saw an influx of black squares and #blackouttuesday that involved users posting black squares to signify that they were ‘muted’ on their accounts to amplify the voices of Black individuals.
This social media move was incredibly controversial and was criticised by many. Those against the squares noted that many of those posts included the #blacklivesmatter and #blm, and drowned out crucial information and resources during that time. Others criticised the lack of information that accompanied the squares, claiming they provided nothing more than performative allyship.
Plenty was learnt about online activism during that time, especially around the importance of hashtags, what is beneficial to movements, and using platforms and audiences to further educate. Despite the learnings and changes, the Black Lives Matter movement across all countries believes that there is a long way to go.