These marches felt different.
It’s tough to pinpoint just why they felt different, but they felt different, nonetheless. Maybe they felt different because they happened everywhere. Not just at the scene of the crime that ended George Floyd’s life. Not just in our big, coastal cities. Everywhere.
From Cleveland, to Charleston, to Boston, three photographers spent time last week getting captivating imagery of an important moment in American history. Andrew Dolph, Chris Rogers, and Griffin Harrington walked with and photographed protestors as they marched on their cities’ main streets and in front of their cities’ main government buildings.
Andrew Dolph was finishing up a high school graduation shoot on the morning of Saturday, May 30 before heading to a protest in downtown Cleveland. After driving 45 minutes from Akron, parking at a nearby hotel, and gearing up, Andrew hit the streets.
As time went on, crowd size began to grow — perhaps beyond 1,500 people — about three blocks from the Cleveland Justice Center. Some off-the-cuff speeches were made, and people started to get fired up.
Then, the march began. It progressed to the Justice Center, around the building, and landed at the steps of the main entrance. I maintained a position at the front virtually the entire time, ending up in between the protestors and first line of police defense — [this was] NOT a great spot but necessary for the highest visual impact.
What Andrew saw next was something many people saw last weekend: a peaceful protest becoming a riot.
The police had two lines of defense protecting the Justice Center glass doors: regular uniformed officers in the back and well-protected bike cops between them and the crowd. Eventually, those uniformed officers were replaced by tactical units from Cleveland Police and the Sheriff’s Department. At that point, they transitioned from light duty batons to full on riot gear.
And with that, out came the flash bangs, concussion grenades, pepper spray, and tear gas.
Andrew rode out the proceedings and eventually made his way back to his car. After decompressing in the hotel lobby and washing his hands and face of any tear gas residue, the Akron-based photographer packed up and drove home.
Andrew’s experience was quite different from that of Charleston’s Chris Rogers, who joined peaceful marches in his hometown this past weekend as well. Chris, who last marched 30 years ago in New York City to support a recently-out gay friend, called these past few days “an awakening.”
As the details of George Floyd’s death unfolded day by day, my personal anger increased. This was the main topic of discussion, bumping the COVID-19 quarantine to the side. I talked with my family and friends extensively, and we were all in agreement that this culture of ours needs change. It’s unacceptable — this is 2020, after all!
I cannot let my daughter grow up in this current environment and I can’t let my friends’ voices go unheard. So, I took to the streets to represent them, myself, and others of our convictions and fears.
Not only did Chris march, he spoke with his friends of color to learn about their experiences dealing with racism and prejudice every day. What he learned was as eye-opening as it was heartbreaking.
My friends tell me how they carry their U.S. passports in case the police stop them for being a minority driving a nice car. They tell me how they have cans thrown at them from moving cars when they walk their dogs or are pushing a stroller with their new baby. They tell me how they’ve become immune and thick-skinned and assume an altercation of some kind can and will happen at any point in time.
It not enough to watch this unfold from the sidelines with TV and social media as the interpreter. Get out there and feel it. This cultural change will have better traction if we’re all involved.
“We’re all involved” is a good way of summing up what Griffin Harrington saw in Boston Common the first weekend of protests. Griffin, who recently relocated from Brooklyn to the Boston area for COVID-19-related reasons, spent Sunday, May 31 outside the Massachusetts State House with people from all backgrounds.
I joined a large group of a thousand or so people. It was a mixture of black, white, young, old, and they all were angry but also united.
A couple community leaders took turns on a megaphone, reminded everyone why they were gathered, and how vocal, peaceful protest can bring awareness and change to police brutality. I wandered through the crowd looking for people and signs that stood out to me for one reason or another and captured them.
Griffin didn’t go back to the protests the next day because, again, there’s still a pandemic going on and he wants to keep his family safe. But while within such a diverse group, Griffin saw something incredibly important: everyone was listening to the young black voices that were leading the way. More of that, please.
The group was very diverse. I’d say 40 percent black and the rest were a mix of different races. The crowd was led by a handful of young black vocal protestors, and most of the crowd just did a lot of listening. They joined in with fist raising and kneeling, but my view that it was an educational and eye-opening experience for many in the crowd.
Check out more of Andrew’s work at andrewdolphphotography.com.
Check out more of Chris’ work at chrismrogers.com.
Check out more of Griffin’s work at griffinharrington.photography.
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