[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ome events not only remain part of our collective history, but also of our psyche with such memorable names like Pearl Harbor, Columbine and 9-11. Today, the use of hashtags through social media has been the tool with which to not only engrave events deep into the minds of people, but also to spread important messages such as calls to action, demands, and even pleas for help. Currently, there seems to be a simultaneous movement across the globe against those in authority who are abusing their power and ending the lives of many, especially young people. The movement has gone viral around the world. Even as you read this article, silent protests, theatrical displays and violent waves are sweeping through both rural towns and busy cities.
Recently, to call attention to recent U.S. cases, people in New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, and even London, have taken to the streets in masses to protest the latest decisions by U.S. Grand Juries, which failed to indict police officers in the slayings of victims due to excessive force. In each case, the victim has been a young black male.
As a result, the names Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others are now fused together to represent all black males, who often fall victim to stereotypes by not only those in uniform, but also by their neighbors. Perhaps even more appalling than hate crimes because of their perpetrator, these violations and misuses of power by police have resulted in far too many deaths. Their duty to protect has turned into their power to harass. Their responsibility to serve has become their power to intimidate. Up until now, the environment has been one of fear and oppression, making people in these communities essentially powerless. But recently, people have flipped the script and fearlessly taken on authority head on. Protesters, even some famous ones like Andre Hawkins of the Cleveland Browns, wear T-shirts, carry signs, and post messages on their social media pages such as “#ICantBreathe” and “#BlackLivesMatter.”
In Ferguson, Mo, people protested the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed man shot by police. In New York City, there has been staged “die-ins” where people lay on the ground to simulate their death such as the one of Eric Garner, a man who was choked so fiercely by more than one officer that he eventually stopped breathing. He was being questioned for selling cigarettes illegally, a nonviolent crime. His daughter was one of the many who lay her body on the same spot where her father was killed in a chokehold. Since the massive protests, Chicago aldermen have called attention to the tactic of using chokeholds with suspects, and have moved to have it banned altogether by both police and security guards, but it still has not been voted on by the City Council. There have also been talks about a pilot program where some officers would wear a body camera. But even then, cameras may not be the solution if these attacks and homicides go unpunished regardless of video evidence as they have been for the most part.
Some victims, like John Crawford, who may appear to have faded into the background, are still one of the many reasons protesters have taken to the streets to block traffic as was done not too long ago on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Crawford was shot down by police officers inside an Ohio Wal-Mart while he absentmindedly spoke on the phone, and carried a toy gun, which he picked up from one of the store shelves. Another shopper called 911 to report a man waving a gun at children. The store surveillance video does not corroborate the caller’s story and clearly shows how police failed to warn him in time before shooting him dead on the spot. A grand jury did not indict the officers in that case either.
In Mexico, a staggering 43 students were made to “disappear” in September of this year. A local mayor and his wife with ties to the cartel were responsible for their disappearance and presumed deaths after they feared the college students would disrupt a speech given by the mayor’s wife. Two members of the gang confessed to having killed and subsequently burning the remains after local police, by orders of the mayor’s wife, handed them over to “take care of them.” Although the mayoral couple fled and were at large for some time, they were eventually found in hiding and arrested. But their capture is not enough to quell the anger of its citizens and console the pain of those left grieving 43 lives.
Because of that, the hashtag “#YaMeCanse,” which means, “Enough, I’m tired,” has gone viral around the world as it pertains to the mass disappearance and killings of the students. The phrase was adopted from a speech given by Jesus Murillo Karam, Mexico’s attorney general. At the conclusion of a press conference, Murillo exclaimed he had enough and was tired. The comment ignited more controversy, which has led to some often violent protests, to the extent of lighting the presidential palace entrance on fire and demanding that President Enrique Peña Nieto step down from office. His six-year term began in 2012. Mexicans and those grieving alongside them around the world have stated through their unified actions and demonstrations that they are also tired, but of government corruption, fear and massive deaths.
Ayotzinapa is the name of the small rural town where the 43 students, mostly from poor farming families, attended school to become teachers in hopes of returning to their own towns to help lift the burden of poverty. It too has been chanted around the globe in both social media and live demonstrations as far as Japan and Europe. On Nov. 20, residents from Chicago’s Little Village and Pilsen communities came together and marched in solidarity for the slain students and their families.
As the waves of protest swell to address violence by police and other authoritative entities, people of all walks of life have joined the conversation. Topics such as racism and discrimination are back on the table. People are identifying with the victims, trying to be heard, working to make a difference and in the process, interrupting the system that has allowed it for too long. Grassroots groups are convening every day, where many future leaders are sure to arise. But most significantly, it is important to note that this is history in the making.
This post is also available in: Spanish