In Appalachia and across the country, protestors took to the streets over the weekend demanding change after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who was killed by a white police officer.
Floyd’s death is the third killing of an African American at the hands of police in the U.S. over the past several weeks that have drawn growing attention on social media, spilling over into city streets.
As protests are expected to continue this week, we’re taking a look at the work of our partners across and on the edges of Appalachia who are covering what’s happening on the ground in their communities.
Thousands of people gathered across Pennsylvania over the weekend in protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. PublicSource reports that in Philadelphia, the National Guard was called to disperse the crowd, while in Pittsburgh, 60 businesses and properties were damaged.
“I urge every one of these demonstrations to be peaceful,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a press conference Saturday. “I urge everyone to have respect for the communities and our neighbors and I urge all of us to continue to call out injustice. We should be doing that.”
Pittsburgh is under curfew order after peaceful protests over George Floyd’s killing ‘get hijacked’ and turn violent
In Pittsburgh, tensions between protestors and police led to the instatement of a curfew Saturday night into Sunday morning. PublicSource reports police in the city now say they’re using any tool available to them to find individuals who “hijacked” the peaceful demonstrations in the city, where 44 individuals – only 16 of whom were Pittsburgh residents – were arrested.
WOSU Public Media
Police in Columbus used tear gas to disperse crowds Sunday evening ahead of a second night of curfews that came in the wake of largely peaceful daytime protesting downtown.
After police arrived in riot gear Sunday evening, WOSU reports protestors throwing water bottles incited the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowd.
“Some dude got shot by a rubber bullet, so I had some gauze and was trying to help him. Then I got teargassed in my face,” protester Aaron Besco said, his eyes red from the gas and from crying. “Why would they do that?”
Charlottesville Tomorrow reports more than 1,000 people gathered Saturday afternoon to march through the city, stopping in some intersections to block traffic as organizers spoke to the crowd.
“America is not suffering from the illness of racism, America was built on racism,” Charlottesville organizer Zyahna Bryant said, “and that becomes even more apparent and louder when we have to resort to taking to the streets to protect and stand up for our lives in the midst of a global pandemic.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Over the weekend, West Virginians gathered in communities from the Eastern Panhandle to the southern coalfields, according to reporting from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Huntington, Charleston, Morgantown and Fairmont are just a few of the places where protests have already taken place, with more planned this week, but some weren’t satisfied with the smaller crowds that gathered in West Virginia compared to the major cities receiving national attention.
“There should’ve been 10 times as many people out here today,” said Jennifer Moore, a white woman from Charleston who joined other peaceful protestors outside City Hall. “Where are they at? White people can’t keep sitting at home, saying ‘Oh, that’s terrible. That’s awful,’ and then that be the end of it.”
WestVirginiaVille spoke with T.C. Clemons, an African American teacher from Highland Elementary, at the protest in Huntington, West Virginia. A former West Virginia Teacher of the Year, she spoke of her personal experiences with racism as a 64-year-old Black woman living in a state where more than 95 percent of the population is white.
“I am educated! I am a child of God! I do nothing but love! But that does not stop people from looking at just my color,” Clemons said. “It does not stop them. They see that first and then they judge. But you don’t even know who I am.”
Protests in Louisville included calls for action against the officers that killed Breonna Taylor, an African American woman who was shot 8 times in her Louisville apartment on March 13th when police served a warrant at the wrong address. But violence in Louisville overnight escalated, according to WFPL, resulting in the death of a Black protestor, Doug McAtee.
According to Chief Steve Conrad of the Louisville Metro Police Department, officers were shot at and they shot back, striking and killing McAtee 20 blocks from the action of the protests early Monday morning.
Carolina Public Press
In North Carolina, Carolina Public Press reports “Floyd’s death became a catalyst unleashing outrage over centuries of racism, injustice, inequality, poverty and broken promises” over the weekend, as protests popped up in Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and Fayetteville.
“You know, there’s a lot of unmitigated violence against our people that’s been going on for way too long, and they’re just hurt,” Skip Gibbs, a Durham artist who helped lead a crowd of more than 200 protesters Saturday afternoon, told CPP. “They’re upset. So, we gave them a platform to speak up and talk about what’s going on out in the world.”