Interviews with protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement and in reaction to the murder of George Floyd.
Please share your first name, age and any identities you want to share.
My name is Hans, I am a 27 year old Ecuadorian-American from Miami, FL.
Q. What should we call it, a protest, riot, or both?
I would characterize the events over the last few days as peaceful protests against a system that has overwhelmingly oppressed African-Americans, as well as minorities of all colors and creeds, through the use of excessive police force and the denial of basic human rights. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of these movements, there are a few opportunistic people who seize upon events like these to cause chaos and destruction for alternate reasons than that of the peaceful protesters.
Q. When and where did you attend protest? What streets did you cover?
On Saturday, May 30th, my 20 year old sister attended the protests in downtown Miami while I was traveling back home from North Florida. I was moved by her activism and decided to attend the protest scheduled for Sunday, May 31st at 3pm in front of Bayside Park in downtown Miami with my cousin (28, male, Ecuadorian) and my best friend (27 year old Lebanese-Peruvian gay male from Miami). We walked north down Biscayne Boulevard from NE 8th street to NE 36th street and then returned to Bayside essentially via the same route. The protest ended at around 8pm when the police ordered us to disband once curfew went into effect.
On the way up, near NE 12th street, we walked up the I-95 ramp but returned to Biscayne after 15-20 minutes and continued marching.
Q. What stood out to you the most?
A few things stood out to me. First, the sheer size of the protest. I’m not exactly sure how many people were there, but I would say there was roughly a few thousand people. The atmosphere was obviously pretty heavy, given the circumstances. But what was cool was that, even though we were all upset and saddened by Mr. Floyd’s death, everyone was super nice to each other and were enjoying themselves. You could tell everyone was experiencing the same feelings of unity, togetherness, a sense of solidarity. And, finally, how diverse the crowd was. I know that’s a bit of a buzzword now, but I saw people of all races and creeds and backgrounds and the group properly represented how multi-cultural Miami is.
Q. There is plenty of footage nationwide of protesters looting and causing destruction, as well as police aggression and violence. Can you comment on either from what you saw?
In terms of looting and destruction, the protest organizers emphasized time and again not to loot business and to remain peaceful. Every few blocks we would slow down and take a knee while waiting for the rest of the group and the organizers made it clear to us to remain peaceful. At the beginning of the march, a few protesters started walking towards the Port of Miami Bridge, where a line of police in riot gear and armored vehicles were “holding the line”. The police warned them to continue down the original path and it was tense for a moment after they shot warning shots in the air, but it calmed down fairly quickly.
As we neared the end of the walk, one protester started chanting “Dont get thrown in jail for stupid behavior or we wont be able to come out again tomorrow.” That same organizer saw a man throw a brick through a CVS and made sure that no one else did anything stupid. About 10-15 protesters joined him to protect the CVS. That happened pretty much at the end of the march and I didn’t see any other incidents like that.
Q. Why did you go out?
For many reasons, the main one obviously being the horrific murder of George Floyd. Police brutality affects almost all backgrounds, but it is clearly affecting African-Americans at a criminally disproportional rate. These senseless and inhumane murders, as well systemic racism and violence have been used to oppress minorities and lower class citizens for far too long. I saw a sign at the march that said “How many deaths are enough?” I feel that summarizes the general feeling most of us who protested had.
On a more personal note, Miami is not usually known for it’s activism and so to see something like that happening in my city moved me and made me proud to call myself a Miamian.
I am also known to have very strong opinions regarding how governments across the world have been ruled by a controlling elite who benefit from oppressive tactics, and felt that lending my voice and body to the protest would help shed light on all of the issues I mentioned above. I felt it was time to “put my money where my mouth is”.
Feel free to leave Hans a comment below!