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Showing Up
In June, 10,000 people protested against racism and police violence in Nashville, Tennessee.

Eric England

CCSS

R.2, R.3, R.4, R.6, R.7, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6

Uniting for Black Lives

Earlier this year, a Black man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minnesota. His death has set off a call for change in America—and in some cities, teens are leading the way.

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    On June 4, 10,000 people filled the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. They waved signs that read “Black Lives Matter!” They chanted, “No justice, no peace!” It was the biggest protest the city had seen in years. And it was led by six teenage girls. 

    The protesters in Nashville were not alone. This summer, millions of Americans took to the streets to fight against racism. People of all races and ages marched. Emma Rose Smith, 15, helped plan the protest in Nashville. “We are the face of the future,” she told the crowd. “We are the next voters. Let’s make a place that’s equal and just for our children.”

    The streets of Nashville, Tennessee, filled with people on June 4.  The people held signs that read “Black Lives Matter!” They chanted, “No justice, no peace!” With 10,000 people, it was the biggest protest in the city in years. And it was led by six teen girls. 

    There were many other protests this summer. Millions of Americans marched to fight racism. People of all races and ages marched. Emma Rose Smith helped plan the protest in Nashville. She is 15. “We are the next voters,” she told the crowd. “Let’s make a place that’s equal and just for our children.”

    On June 4, Nashville, Tennessee, saw its biggest protest in years. About 10,000 people filled the streets, waving signs that read “Black Lives Matter!” and chanting, “No justice, no peace!” The organizers behind the event were six teenage girls. 

    The protesters in Nashville were not the only ones speaking out. This summer, millions of Americans of all ages and races took to the streets to fight against racism. Emma Rose Smith, 15, was one of the organizers of the Nashville protest. “We are the face of the future,” she told the crowd. “We are the next voters. Let’s make a place that’s equal and just for our children.”

“I Can’t Breathe” 

    The protests this summer were sparked by the death of a Black man named George Floyd. He lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While arresting him, police wrestled Floyd to the ground. One policeman knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes. Floyd pleaded with him to get off. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd said again and again before he died.

    A witness captured the scene on a cell phone camera. Millions of people saw the video and were outraged. Floyd is one of many unarmed Black people who have been killed by the police in recent years. Protesters took to the streets in anger over the long history of racism in America. 

    Before long, protests were taking place in 140 cities. At the heart of these events is a movement called Black Lives Matter (BLM). It started seven years ago, after the killing of an unarmed Black teenager named Trayvon Martin. One of its goals is to change the relationship between police and Black Americans. 

    In many Black communities, police are seen as a threat rather than protection. Often, Black people are treated differently than white people who commit the same types of crimes. 

    Police are more likely to use force on Black people than white people. And Black people are nearly six times more likely to go to jail than white people.

    The death of George Floyd sparked these protests. He was a Black man who lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The police were arresting him. They pushed him to the ground. One policeman knelt on his neck. He knelt on it for more than 8 minutes. Floyd pleaded with him to get off. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd said again and again. Then he died.

    Someone made a video of the scene. Millions of people saw it. They were outraged. In recent years, police officers have killed many unarmed Black people. Floyd was now one of them. Protesters took to the streets. They were angry about racism in America. 

    Soon there were protests in 140 cities. A movement called Black Lives Matter (BLM) was at the heart of these events. BLM started seven years ago, after Trayvon Martin was killed. He was a Black teen. He was unarmed. 

BLM wants to change the relationship between police and Black Americans. In many Black communities, police aren’t seen as protection. They’re seen as a threat. Police often treat Black people differently than white people. Police are more likely to use force on Black people. And Black people are nearly six times more likely to go to jail.

    The protests this summer were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While arresting him, police forced Floyd to the ground. One policeman then knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes—despite Floyd’s pleas for the officer to show mercy. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd said again and again before he died.

    A witness in the crowd captured the scene on a cell phone camera. The video was viewed by millions of people, and they were outraged at the death of yet another unarmed Black person at the hands of the police. Protesters quickly took to the streets to express their anger over the long history of racism in America. 

    Protests were soon taking place in 140 cities. At the heart of these events is Black Lives Matter (BLM). It’s a movement that started seven years ago, after the killing of an unarmed Black teenager named Trayvon Martin. One of its goals is to change how police interact with Black Americans. 

In many Black communities, police are seen as a threat rather than protection. Often, Black people are treated differently than white people who commit similar crimes. 

Police are more likely to use force on Black people than white people. And Black people are nearly six times more likely to go to jail than white people.

Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Remembering George Floyd
People painted a mural of George Floyd near where he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd had been accused of using a fake $20 bill at a convenience store.

Asking for More

    In recent years, many police forces have been pressured to make changes. They have hired more officers of color. Some new officers get trained to deal with conflicts in a peaceful way. And many officers now wear body cameras to record arrests.

    But millions of BLM protesters are asking for more. They want to call attention to the way racism affects everyday life for Black Americans. For more than a century, racist laws and practices have kept Black people from gaining access to good schools and good jobs. 

    The protesters want some funding, or money, to be taken away from the police. Instead, they want it spent on better jobs and better schools in communities that need them. They also believe that social workers—not police—should handle problems like drug use.

    Lately, many police forces have been pressured to change. They’ve hired more officers of color. Some officers are trained to handle conflicts in a peaceful way. Many now wear body cameras to record arrests.

    But BLM protesters want more. They want people to know how racism affects Black Americans. For more than 100 years, racist laws and actions have kept Black people from having access to good schools and good jobs. 

    The protesters want less money spent on the police. They want more spent on making schools better in communities that need them. They want it spent on creating good jobs in these communities. They want social workers, not police, to handle problems like drug use.

    In recent years, under pressure to make changes, many police departments have hired more officers of color. In addition, some new officers are trained in how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful way. And body cameras—for recording arrests—are increasingly common.

    But millions of BLM protesters are demanding more. They want to put a spotlight on the way racism affects everyday life for Black Americans. For more than a century, racist laws and practices have prevented Black people from gaining access to quality schools and good jobs. 

    The protesters want to reduce funding, or money, for police. They say that the money saved should go toward improving schools and creating jobs in communities that need them. They also argue that social workers—not police—should respond to problems related to drug use.

Looking to the Future

    It’s not clear how quickly change will happen. But polls show that most Americans support the protests. 

    In Nashville, the marchers could feel the energy. When they got to the Tennessee State Capitol, the crowd lay down. It started raining. Everyone got wet. But they stayed there for 8 minutes to honor Floyd. “It was really powerful,” says Smith. Then, before the protest ended, a rainbow came out. 

    Fifteen-year-old Kennedy Green, who helped plan the protest, saw it. She also noticed how the crowd was made up of all different types of people. And that gave her hope. “Right now the country is divided,” she says. “But I feel like we showed them what being united looks like.” 

    The changes may take time. But polls show that most Americans support the protests. 

    In Nashville, the marchers felt that support. At the State Capitol, they lay down. It started to rain. They got wet. But they stayed there for 8 minutes to honor Floyd. “It was really powerful,” says Smith. Then a rainbow came out. 

    Kennedy Green helped plan the protest. She’s 15. She saw the rainbow. Then she noticed all the different types of people in the crowd. That gave her hope. “The country is divided,” she says. “But I feel like we showed them what being united looks like.” 

    How quickly will change happen? It’s unclear. But polls show that most Americans support the goals of the protesters. 

    In Nashville, the marchers could feel this new energy for change. When they arrived at the Tennessee State Capitol, the crowd lay down. Though it started raining, and everyone got wet, they stayed there for 8 minutes to honor Floyd. “It was really powerful,” says Smith. Then, before the protest ended, a rainbow appeared. 

    Fifteen-year-old Kennedy Green, who helped plan the protest, saw it. She also noticed how the crowd was made up of many different types of people—and that gave her hope. “Right now the country is divided,” she explains. “But I feel like we showed them what being united looks like.” 

 Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

A Pattern of Violence
Police violence against Black Americans is not a new problem. This sign includes the names of some of the Black men and women who have been killed by police officers in recent years.

ACTIVITY: 
5 Questions About
Black Lives Matter

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

Who was George Floyd? 

Who was George Floyd? 

Who was George Floyd? 

Why did people protest after Floyd’s death? 

Why did people protest after Floyd’s death? 

Why did people protest after Floyd’s death? 

What is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement? 

What is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement? 

What is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement? 

When did the BLM movement start? 

When did the BLM movement start? 

When did the BLM movement start? 

How would protesters like to see some police funding used in the future?

How would protesters like to see some police funding used in the future?

How would protesters like to see some police funding used in the future?

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