We live in a society where teen voices are often the ones that don’t get to be heard. Contrary to popular belief, teenagers are opinionated, especially pertaining to the topics that will influence their generation the most.
Introducing VOX BUBBLE, VOX ATL’s newest series in which VOX ATL’s teen staff members give you their bite-sized, unadulterated opinions about society, politics, and pop culture. Taken straight from the VOX ATL Group Me group chat, VOX BUBBLE is meant to be conversational in tone, and gives an easy-to-consume look at what Atlanta teens think about big issues in America. This week, we discussed the national reaction to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
On May 25, the police responded to a call about a man attempting to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. The man identified was George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man. The police arrested Floyd and restrained him with handcuffs. Despite complying with the officers, Floyd was pinned to the ground by officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin proceeded to put his knee on Floyd’’s neck for approximately eight minutes, despite Floyd pleading for his life and stating that he couldn’t breathe. That day, George Floyd was murdered by the police.
A video of the incident has since gone viral, and it’s generated a nationwide response. Many VOX teens are rightfully outraged because of this systematic problem that is allowing more and more black people to be ripped from their families. Here are a few of their responses.
“When we see all of our black brothers and black sisters, I can’t help to think of my family or my peers. It’s like when does it get to a point where enough is enough? What’s going on right now is ridiculous, and it is so imperative that we use our voices to speak up about it.” – Isabella C.
“I think what sucks most about all of this is that people will still debate if actions like this are justified. I never thought there would be an argument about if taking a person’s life, for now, was a bad thing. I’m starting to hate it here.” – Bria B.
“One of the most scary things right now is being black in America. Could we hope that elected officials do something, or is this a matter that must go to the people to solve?” – Zakai B.
On May 29, Derek Chauvin was arrested by Minneapolis police and charged with 3rd-degree murder. Here’s what VOX teens had to say about it.
“We need all of them…If you can see a man’s breath being drained out his body, his blood is on your hands.” – Isabella C.
“Exactly the rest that stood there and let it happen are just as guilty…2 were also holding down Floyd’s legs off-camera.” – Bria B.
“I read they hadn’t released [the bodycam footage] yet. but I’m sure the other officers with their footage could provide more insight than what’s been given, even though I’m sure they’d rather not”. – Zakai B.
“I feel like he was only arrested so that the people wouldn’t kill him…This is only a protection over his life in my eyes.” – Roderick T.
UPDATE: Chauvin’s charge has been upgraded to 2nd-degree murder, and three more officers have been arrested and changed in connection to Floyd’s death.
Looting and Protests
George Floyd’s death set off a string of protests across the country, starting in Minneapolis, where the murder occurred. Demonstrators gathered to march through the streets of Minneapolis. A police precinct, as well as cars and other buildings, were set ablaze. An estimated 170 businesses were looted, namely Target.
In the aftermath of the riots, some VOX teens felt conflicted about the demonstrations:
“Everything that’s happened with George Floyd is infuriating. However, it’s also upsetting to see people loot stores in response. It’s disappointing to me to see members of our community trying to profit off of a terrible situation while calling it ‘protest’ and ‘retribution.’ – Sydney C.
“I don’t think that people should loot neighborhood stores, but Target is a billion-dollar corporation. They’ll be fine. Plus, I heard they were denying milk to protesters who got tear-gassed.” – Zariah T.
“I see it like participating in a protest not because you truly care about the cause but because it gets you out of school. It’s action in the interest of personal gain. I may not have love for big corporations like Target, but there are less inflammatory ways of doing good.” – Sydney C.
However, others pointed out the benefits of looting too.
“I actually disagree! I think it’s a wonderful way to redistribute wealth and to share resources with protestors who were denied from buying things like milk and hydrogen peroxide. Large corporations like Target and Walmart destroy small black-owned business and I could care less if some people got some stuff for free in the name of liberation…Also idk about every state but there are SO many people who qualify for unemployment…bc the government has POORLY handled Covid-19. When the government fails us, it’s our responsibility to resist. Looting is a great way to do so while also allowing people to get their necessities.” – Tyler B.
After the Minneapolis protest, many other U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Dallas, Washington, DC, followed suit and began their own protests. On May 29, Atlanta residents staged a protest downtown in Centennial Olympic Park. As protesters started to move toward CNN Center, many started to vandalize the CNN sign with graffiti and broke the glass outside the building.
Later on, some protesters shifted toward Buckhead, where they began to loot Lenox Square.
Here are a few reactions on the riot from the VOX ATL teen staff writers:
“To me, it’s not about if they’ll be ok. It’s about the black community giving the media and the government ammunition to demonize us when we’re the victims. They’re taking this sh-t way too far in the worst direction…” – Sydney C.
“The media is always demonizing black voices. I’m not saying that people need to burn the city down, but people have been protesting peacefully for so long and there has been little change made. If burning property and attacking from a capitalistic approach is gonna get some sort of recognition. I’m not saying it’s right but I understand it. This isn’t just a reaction to the events of this week. This is pent up generational anger, and it’s hard to keep all that down for so long.” – Lyric E.
“Yes and what @Lyric E said. The whole thing is that true disruption needs to be made for actual change to happen. People are rioting for this sole purpose of making bystanders uncomfortable enough to right the injustice so they can return to their sense of ‘normal’ and ‘comfort.’ Peaceful protest doesn’t make people uncomfortable enough for things to actually change.” – Jabari C.
President Trump’s Tweet
….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
After the Minneapolis riots, President Trump responded in a now flagged tweet which says: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” is a quote from Miami Police Chief Walter Headley during the Civil Rights Movement. He used the phrase in “discussing how he would deal with what he called crime and thugs and threats by young black people…” according to Professor Clarence Lusane of Howard University.
While Trump has since defended the comment, many VOX ATL teens took offense to his tweet.
“The word thugs is the white man’s perception of black men. For him to use that terminology as THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES is actually crazy to me. Half of the s**t he has done Obama could never do.” – Isabella C.
“My heart dropped when I first saw it. But honestly disappointed but not surprised.” – Cayla L.
“People actually voted for this guy…” – Brooklyn W.
“What happened to protesters being very nice people him? I guess that only applies to conservative whites.” – Lyric E.
“Looting=shooting, but stepping on someone’s neck=free man with paid leave????? he is deranged.” – James R.
“And some people still don’t want to believe that there’s something wrong here.”– Maya M.
“You would think, if nothing else for pure damage control, Biden would use this opportunity to combat 45’s mess by actually doing something.” – Lyric E.
“Where was all this energy when ARMED people were breaking quarantine lockdown orders…the President of the United States is willing to warrant death onto his own constituents. That really says a lot about the current state of our country.” – Tiffany P.
That concludes the second issue of VOX BUBBLE. If you have the means, please donate to The Action Network which is bailing out activists who were arrested in Atlanta.