For many in the US, the present moment marks a period of reckoning for racism that has plagued the country for centuries. In more than 150 cities, people are marching in the streets and calling for an end to police brutality and racial injustice.
The demonstrations were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis in May after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been terminated and charged with second-degree murder. Three police officers who were also present at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Over the last few weeks, the subsequent anger and hurt over Floyd's death has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement towards changing policing in the US. In Minneapolis, the city council have vowed to dismantle its police department and establish a community-based system of public safety in its place.
In other cities, protesters continue to make their voices heard. Photographers have been quick to bear witness to the scenes, capturing the tension between the authorities and the public, scenes of solidarity between protestors and an outpouring of emotion in the streets.
Alexis Hunley, who typically works with portraiture, has been chronicling the protests in the streets of Los Angeles, sharing her own experiences in her captions on Instagram. The man in the photo wears a hoodie with the words “I’m just armed with love” emblazoned on the back.
“The cruelty I witnessed by the police yesterday on Fairfax will stay with me forever… The love I have for every Black person who has marched, protested, and organised past and present is what’s keeping me together,” she says on Instagram.
“A fist and the State” is how Philip Keith describes this photo of a protestor in Boston with what appears to be a police helicopter flying overhead. Thousands have marched through the city in the last few days to call out police brutality. Keith’s photos also show organisers addressing demonstrators and police officers patrolling public areas.
A musician plays his trumpet in front of a line of police officers in Charleston, South Carolina. Across the city, SWAT teams have been patrolling the streets to keep an eye on peaceful protests. “We are tired... It’s either you are with us or against us. Which one are you?,” asks photographer Nora Williams.
Patience Zalanga’s images brim with emotion, as the she captures scenes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the same city where George Floyd was killed by police. “My city’s pain is resting in my throat like a fire tonight. Justice for George Floyd. I don’t have anything profound to say besides I’m hurting,” Zalanga says.
The American South, including cities like Atlanta, Georgia, has witnessed racial tension over centuries. It was also an important centre for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Black folks are tired. Tired of a system that continuously brings us to our knees,” Lynsey Weatherspoon says. “We dig our heels so deep into the ground, we no longer see our feet. We keep fighting and hopefully moving toward a space where we can be able to simply breathe.”
Visuals by Janick
Born in the Cayman Islands and raised in Jamaica, photographer Janick lives and works in New York, where he has captured the peaceful demonstrations in Harlem, Gracie Mansion, Brooklyn and other areas in the city. In his work, Janick photographs bystanders and demonstrators alike.
“The voices of tomorrow need us to speak up for them today,” writes the photographer who goes by the pseudonym DJ E-Clyps. He has been documenting the protests in black and white, shooting both young and old in the streets of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
OJ Slaughter in Boston has captured tense moments between the police and the public. “Being Black in America means having a target on your back no matter what,” they stated on Instagram. Images of confrontations between protestors and the authorities highlight the contrasts between the two – the former holding signs and loudspeakers, the latter decked in protective gear. “I'd rather die telling history than not have stories told at all,” the photographer writes.
In South Minneapolis, an artist paints a portrait of George Floyd with a crown on his head during a gathering. Social worker and photographer Asha Belk has captured other moments of artistry surrounding the demonstrations, including young people painting murals of Floyd.
DC photographer Tony Mobley caught sight of this protester just as he was leaving the protests – a man stands over a banner that reads “I can’t breathe”, George Floyd’s final words. Speaking of the photo, Mobley writes, “This to me was a gentle reminder that we are a strong and resilient people”.