Protesters have had tear gas thrown at them, pepper spray unleashed and rubber bullets pelted down upon them, all as the hostile President encourages police “domination.”
The bravery of these marchers stands in stark contrast to the cowardice of the man demanding domination as he hides in the White House, and it is their courage and tenacity that will continue to push to end the systematic racism and police brutality in the country.
The movement online over the past several weeks has also helped to promote and share important images and videos from protests, organise marches and events, and help to get people involved.
On Tuesday, Instagram was awash with millions of black squares, as the #BlackOutTuesday hashtag took over, eventually reaching over 28 million posts. The idea originally came from two music industry executives to disrupt the work-week, “in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black citizens at the hands of police.”
Activists became concerned that the use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in these posts would drown out vital donation information and other resources for organisers and protestors, pushing posts down Instagram feeds in a flood of black squares. Indeed, others also criticised the posts as potentially shallow gestures, meaning little without proper support and continued efforts for the cause it promotes.
This may be true, and it is important to continue to act on these small social media actions we take, rather than forgetting and moving on, but there is no denying the power these small acts on social media can have in building a movement. All of these posts are pebbles in the avalanche of change, and it is heartening to see so many people provoked into action online and potentially encouraged to remain active in their support.
Important accounts have seen an encouraging surge in followers, bolstering their audience and strengthening their cause thanks to the recent protests, both in person and online.
Black lives matter
Growing in the aftermath of the murder of the young Trayvon Martin in 2012, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag became a human rights movement to protest the police killings of black people, and speak on racial inequality in the US.
During mid-May, their Instagram account had been adding on average 300 followers each day and had just over 300,000 followers. By the 25th of the month, when George Floyd was murdered by policemen in Minnesota, the followers began to swell, and thanks to the increased awareness through protests, riots, media coverage and social media drives, on the 1st of June they gained over 200,000 followers, while on #BlackOutTuesday they gained by an incredible 1.3 million and now have over 2.4 million on the platform.
Similarly, their Twitter has swollen to over 650,000 followers, gaining 170,000 on Tuesday. With more eyes and an active community galvanised and angry at what has happened in America, the power in these new supporters will help build funding, promote petitions and pressure politicians into change.
Color of change
Again, forging out of another tragedy, Color of Change formed to reinforce the voice of African American’s following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Their mission is to get decision-makers in corporations and government to “create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America” and lead “campaigns that build real power for Black communities.”
As people pointed to accounts to follow and organisations of authority to pay attention to, Color of Change has seen their Twitter following rise by over 30,000 in the last few days and their Instagram grow by a massive 700,000 with 50,000 arriving on Monday and almost half a million on #BlackOutTuesday.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People formed very early in the 20th Century after a horrific anti-black race riot, in which 5,000 white Americans and European immigrants used clubs, guns, razors and torches to target black residents of Springfield, Illinois.
Today, their mission is “to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.”
They have seen a huge uptick in followers on Instagram, starting May with just over 200,000 and now have over 400,000, with 100,000 arriving on Tuesday, while their Twitter following has also grown by 5,000 to 465,000.
Shaun King has been a tireless civil rights activist for many years, and is heavily involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. He re-launched the North Star newspaper of famous 19th Century abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, and much like Douglass has been relentlessly fighting for civil rights in his country (200 years apart).
King uses his base and influence to share videos from across America of black Americans being abused, assaulted and killed by police and racists, and amplifies fellow activists’ voices. He has been instrumental in the recent protests and was indefatigable in his efforts to bring attention to the George Floyd case.
Indeed, his Instagram has seen a huge influx of new backers, with over 1 million people joining him since then end of May, taking his total to over 3 million. Over a quarter of a million people followed him on the first day of June alone. His Twitter has also grown by almost 30,000 over the last few days.
These accounts are just a small example of the encouraging uprising of awareness accumulating, and I encourage you to seek many more out and join their ranks. Here is an incredibly useful Google Doc I came across listing organisations, petitions, donation links, businesses to support and accounts to follow to build your knowledge and network of these issues.
Building a Movement Online
While millions march on the front-lines, chanting for change, many millions more (including me) have awoken to the cause across the world, as a result. People are finally coming to accept and understand the issues plaguing the black community, and use what power they have to educate, discuss and share ways in which this can be changed.
Social media has allowed people to quickly connect with movements, learn from important organisations and activists, read, donate, petition and importantly, listen. As accounts like the above grow, so does the movement for justice, as protesters both on the ground and online stoke the flame of change once again. Follow these above accounts, engage with them and continue to support these movements long after the media moves on, and we can all contribute in some way to change.