|A protester raises a fist near a fire during a demonstration outside the White House over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in Washington, DC, on May 31, 2020. (Photo by Samuel Corum / AFP)|
By Jane Han
SEATTLE ― Despite climbing infections and death tolls, coronavirus news has been pushed off headlines in the U.S. as the country grapples with mayhem, destruction and riots sparked by the death of another black person in police custody.
Peaceful protests turned violent in dozens of cities large and small across the nation with fires set ablaze on cars, small businesses and malls smashed into and robbed, and thousands arrested.
Up until a few short days ago, social distancing and reopening the economy were the biggest topics of debate. Now, it's all about ''Black Lives Matter.''
''People are angry, and rightfully so,'' said Nick Mayrose, 28, who participated in the protest in downtown Seattle, two days in a row.
''We're out there speaking out against the systemic racism that is so deeply rooted in our society that sometimes we don't even realize that we're being racist.''
The recent wave of protests was triggered across the U.S. after George Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, died after betting handcuffed and pinned to the ground with a police officer's knee pressed on his neck.
A viral video of the incident immediately sparked widespread outrage, pushing people out to the streets to protest since last week.
|Police hold a perimeter near the White House as demonstrators gather to protest against the killing of George Floyd. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)|
Mayrose, who drove 30 minutes from the city's suburbs to take part in the rally, said he wore a face covering the entire three hours he was marching and rallying, but noticed plenty of people without a face covering.
''When you're out there pumped up with emotion and chanting in full force, a piece of cloth covering your mouth can seem like the most trivial thing,'' he said, adding that he planned to head out again for the third day.
Masking up may help, but health experts say law enforcement's use of pepper spray ― which causes heavy sneezing and coughing ― on protestors is one of many factors that could easily turn rallies into super-spreading events.
Such concerns have stopped certain groups from taking to the streets, but still many of the nightly demonstrations have pushed through and escalated beyond a peaceful gathering.
Thousands of people with a different agenda, who are being identified as ''outsiders,'' gang members, among other possibilities, have thrown bricks, rocks and other debris into store windows to break in and rob the premises.
In Portland, Oregon, looters broke into a Louis Vuitton boutique and stole tens and thousands of dollars worth of bags. Other major malls including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy's were looted nationwide.
To prevent further looting and damage, many cities have imposed a curfew of 6 p.m. or earlier although it is unclear whether it will be obeyed.
''It's like a perfect storm,'' said C. J. Clark, 32, a local mother who hopes to be rallying on the streets but remains home.
''People have been unwillingly confined to their homes for months, many are financially struggling, so much anger is building up, and now this,'' she said.
News about the pandemic has seemingly been put on the back burner, but the public in the U.S. makes a point that this is an issue that deserves immediate attention and solidarity.
''Everyone is just about tired of the coronavirus now; yes, it can be life-threatening, but racism is also life-threatening,'' said Peter Corrada, who is putting together a list of small businesses owned by people of color in his neighborhood, another suburb of Seattle, so the community can support them.