Following the outrage of George Floyd's death, there were genuine efforts this week to find common ground between police and demonstrators in New York City.
It was not always comfortable, but it was real.
I could hear the protesters at Union Square Park before I could see them.
Walking along 14th street in New York City, the wind rushed past me, carrying the sound of a crowd chanting just a few blocks ahead. I could faintly make out what I’ve heard on the news for the past eight nights of protests across the country, but now, I heard it in person: “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”
Hundreds of thousands of people across the country—and around the world—have taken to the streets, day and night, to protest the death of George Floyd, now classified as a homicide by Minneapolis authorities.
According to the medical examiner’s report, Floyd died from asphyxiation after a Minneapolis police officer restricted his breathing by pressing a knee to his neck while he lay on the street. Floyd had been stopped by the police for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
Video of the incident and his last minutes, filmed by a bystander, went viral.
New York City is no stranger to protests against police misconduct, but the demonstrations this week, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to heightened tension—and also a sense among some that this time, the loud voices might produce long-sought-for changes.
As I continued walking toward Union Square, the sound of distant peaceful demonstrators began to mix with the buzzing of power tools as businesses were boarding up their facades with plywood. Nearly every major store on my way to the park had their windows and doors covered to protect from vandalism and looting.
As I arrived at Union Square, a crowd of about 500 people quickly came into view. I adjusted my cloth mask to make sure it fit my face tightly, remembering that despite being in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of additional people would soon descend upon the park as the sun would set.