The Second Wave of the Civil Rights Movement: Global Unity

Myya Helm


Black. Lives. Matter.

For weeks, these three words have been said not only in America but across the world. They’ve transcended not only borders, but languages, cultures, classes, religions, and identities.

Black. Lives. Matter.

For weeks, these three words have been said not only in America but across the world. They’ve transcended not only borders, but languages, cultures, classes, religions, and identities.

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered by plain-clothed police officers in Louisville, Kentucky. Three officers forcibly entered her apartment as she was sleeping with a signed “no-knock” search warrant. Believing their home was being broken into, her boyfriend acted in self-defense with a firearm he was licensed to carry. Officers fired more than 20 rounds, at least eight of which struck Taylor. Her killers have yet to be charged for their crimes.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was lynched by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a store employee believed Floyd was using a counterfeit bill, the police were called and accused him of resisting arrest. An officer then knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds as he lay handcuffed on the ground, begging for his life. Before becoming motionless, his last words were “I can’t breathe.” Four other officers stood nearby. The entire incident was caught on camera by a teenage girl.

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Samuel Dubose, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, and Jordan Davis are only a few of the innumerable amount of Black lives that have been taken from us because of senseless, racial injustice.

In response, demonstrations and protests have occurred in all fifty states with participants denouncing racism and police brutality while demanding police accountability, defunding, and reform. For Black Americans, this is nothing new. As victims of racially based oppression for over four-hundred years, the fight for justice has never ceased. Dismantling white supremacy, a whitewashed education system, and the symbols that glorify violence is an everyday battle.

On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin took the bus home from high school. The bus driver ordered her to get up from her seat, but she refused. She paid her fare and later said she felt as if Harriet Tubman pushed down on one of her shoulders while Sojourner Truth pushed down on the other. Two police officers quickly arrived at the scene and pulled her from the seat, sending her schoolbooks flying from her lap. Colvin was handcuffed and arrested. She was the first to challenge this unjust law.

The American civil rights movement was a major turning point in the centuries-old war against racism. Beginning in the mid-20th century, Black Americans protested racial segregation, discrimination, and prejudice en masse. Boycotts, sit-ins, and marches specifically defined the unprecedented struggle for full political, social, and economic equality and freedom. This eventually spread worldwide, with the belief that the rights of all people were equally protected by law being adopted by oppressed groups of people everywhere. Those from different backgrounds and political interests all came together for a combined purpose, the liberation of Black people from a historically universal racist system.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, a single protest could include as many as two hundred and fifty thousand people willing to break down racial barriers. Visionary pioneers such as Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Lewis, and Bayard Rustin are only a few of the many names that fought against systemic oppression. As vocal agents of change for the Black community, their leadership has laid the groundwork for global protest today.

Many different philosophies were, and still are, in the struggle for Black freedom. While some advocated for a more “nonviolent” approach, others urged for Black Americans to protect themselves against white aggression.

On May 2, 1963, the first day of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, thousands of youths participated in a nonviolent demonstration to challenge the inequities they and their families faced as Black people. They watched their parents’ involvement in the civil rights movement for years, but adults had recently been warned not to protest or else they would lose their jobs. In turn, thousands of 12 to 18-year-olds left their classrooms to march on downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The march planned to only go for half a mile, although only a few made it to the end. The children were almost immediately attacked by police dogs, beaten with batons, sprayed down with high-pressure water hoses, and arrested.

On March 7, 1965, roughly 600 civil rights marchers and leaders left Selma, Alabama, and headed towards Montgomery. Marching for their constitutional right to vote and defying segregationist repression, the nonviolent activists were all unarmed. The demonstration made it only to the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away. After crossing the county line, state and local police officers began to attack them using batons, tear gas, and charged the crowd on horseback. Some used whips or rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire to force protestors back. This day is now known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Although many marches began peacefully, Black organizers were no stranger to police cruelty. Demonstrations for racial equality were often met with unjustified violence, depicting America’s long, painful history of police brutality.

If anything, events like these have shown us that there is not, nor will there ever be, a correct way to take back your own freedom while also appeasing white comfort.

Unfortunately, the movement towards equality has always been plagued by excessive and unnecessary police force. Protests against police violence are rooted in generations of this injustice. It should be of no surprise that the early, racist roots of American policing began with slave patrols, armed groups of white men that captured and disciplined defiant or runaway slaves. Ranging from assault and battery to torture and murder, today’s unwarranted brutality only continues America’s legacy of police oppression.

Enough is enough.

Much like the past, the modern-day civil rights movement has been plagued by tear gas, batons, and horses alongside newer threats like pepper spray, rubber bullets, and police SUVs. Calling not only Americans to the streets, law enforcement’s role in reinforcing a racist system has caught the attention of the entire world. America’s anti-police brutality protests racked by police brutality response have sparked international condemnation. Nationwide unrest has turned to global unrest. Floyd’s death paired with over four-hundred years of senseless killings and systemic racism in America has brought forth international demands for change.

In England and Belgium, protestors speak against racial atrocities by denouncing or destroying statues of slave traders and monuments commemorating injustice.

In France, Spain, and Switzerland, demonstrators fill entire city streets, parks, and public squares, shouting chants like “I can’t breathe” in their respective languages.

In Italy, activists gather outside of the United States embassy and consulate buildings to demand justice for George Floyd and Black lives everywhere.

The fight against anti-Blackness is a worldwide demonstration. However, with the current help of technology, questionable law enforcement tactics are being exposed even faster through videos, press accounts, and social media. Unlike in the mid-20th century, anyone can watch American police officers demonstrate their problematic law enforcement tactics with the click of a button today.

On May 29, 2020, a police officer was caught on camera violently pushing a woman onto the asphalt during a demonstration before casually walking away as if nothing happened. She was later taken to the hospital, having suffered from a seizure as well as a concussion.

On May 30, 2020, a crowd of protestors in Brooklyn, New York protested against police brutality moments before two NYPD vehicles drove directly into them. Screams echoed through the street as several people were knocked to the ground. It is still unclear if anyone was injured.

On June 4, 2020, two police officers were recorded shoving a 75-year-old peaceful protestor to the ground. Officers can be heard yelling “Move!” and “Push him back!” before his head bounced directly onto the pavement behind him. Blood immediately pooled around his body as most of the officers continued walking. He has since reportedly suffered from a serious head injury.

Thousands upon thousands of documented incidents have since been published online for the world to witness, unifying Black communities separated by oceans and calling non-Black communities to action. No matter where you go, it is impossible to hide from the reality Black Americans have been confronted with for centuries and staying silent has become a damning indication of those on the wrong side of history.

With the help of the internet, the entire planet has united in the fight to ensure that Black lives matter like we’ve never seen before.

Discard of Black people can no longer be ignored. International protests and demonstrations have proven the pervasiveness of police brutality on camera in a way that no one will ever be able to unsee.

The scale of the second wave of the civil rights movement has become revolutionary. Its intensity has upended modern society.

What else will it take for all Americans to finally realize that the slaughter of innocent Black people must be stopped by any means necessary?