Citizens of all races and creeds have taken to the streets to protest – both peacefully and violently – against the recent killings of unarmed black men, as well as the decisions not to charge the white police officers that killed them.
Protestors marched with signs during the first week of December. Gathering in several large cities, they screamed in protest after a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, a black man, after tackling him to the ground in a chokehold, according to ABC.
According to CNN, the protests erupted after a grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to charge officer Daniel Pantaleo with homicide.
The confrontation, which was captured on a cellphone, began when Pantaleo started to question Garner about illegally selling loose cigarettes. This was a crime for which he was previously arrested.
The two exchanged words and the discussion heated. Pantaleo then tackled Garner in a chokehold, according to The Washington Post. Garner said, “I can’t breathe,” several times while police held him on the ground. These words become the rallying cry during the recent protests.
According to USA Today, groups demonstrating also participated in “die-ins,” similar to the “sit-ins” of the Civil Rights Era. Protestors lied down on floors or sidewalks and refused to move. According to The Plain Dealer, several such protests took place around the country, including Cleveland.
The case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot and killed on Nov. 22 by Caucasian Cleveland police officer Timothy Leohmann, also spurred the ongoing protests about racial inequality in America, according to The Plain Dealer. Rice was holding a pellet gun at the time he was shot.
According to CNN, Loehmann was hired in March of 2014 following his resignation from the Independence, Ohio police department after his supervisor described him as “emotionally immature” and “weepy.” These records, as well as security video from the park where Rice was shot, will be reviewed when a grand jury decides whether or not to charge Leohmann.
The family of Rice has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Loehmann, his partner and the city of Cleveland for acting “unreasonably, negligently and recklessly” when the crime occurred, according to NBC.
The complaint said that “the defendant officers properly approached Tamir and properly investigated his possession of the replica gun they would undoubtedly have determined that the gun was fake and that the subject was a juvenile.” The lawsuit also alleges that the officers didn’t provide Rice with medical attention for more than four minutes “as he lay on the ground alive and bleeding.”
The protests rocking the nation are rooted in the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9, 2014. A grand jury decided not to charge Wilson on Nov. 24. The decision caused a mass protest in the St. Louis suburb, according to The New York Times.
These three deaths have brought race relations between police and black citizens to the forefront of the country’s collective conscious.
President Obama talked about the nation’s rising racial problems during an interview with BET News on Dec. 8, in which he asks the young African-American population to be both persistent and patient, according to USA Today.
“This isn’t going to be solved overnight,” Obama told BET News. “This is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it’s deeply rooted in our history.”
Obama asked young people to remember two things. First, that “we have made progress in the last 50 years,” and second, “we have to be persistent.”
While protests still rock the nation and the court decision in the Tamir Rice case has yet to come, it is unclear to what extent of history will be affected by these protests.
Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, USA Today, ABC News, The Plain Dealer, NBC News, The New York Times and The Washington Post was used in this report.