Anti-racism protests that started in Minneapolis quickly spread throughout the country, and the world, demanding justice for the killing of George Floyd, and for greater police accountability. Images of violence and looting dominated the news of the protests, even though most have been peaceful.
The hyperfocus on the violent actions during protests fuels negative feelings toward protesters and African Americans, says Danielle Kilgo, a University of Minnesota professor who researches social movements, social media, and journalism.
“The media has a history ... of helping develop really negative stereotypes that are used to oppress black people and ... create prejudice and racism in our society,” she says.
Peaceful protests struggle to get coverage because they don't disrupt, which protests by their nature need to do, says Dr. Kilgo.
"[Protests] need to disrupt the norms so that you will pay attention to something that people aren't paying attention to at the moment," she says. While peaceful protests, online conversations, and political advocacy are ongoing, they aren't working on their own, says Dr. Kilgo, adding that more disruptive protests serve a purpose. "Both are necessary. And both are happening for a reason."
The coverage of the recent protests echoes protest coverage of the past several decades, especially with anti-black racism protests, says Dr. Kilgo.
"There's a huge emphasis on the tactics and because of that ... there's not space or there's less value seen in talking about the demands, the grievances, and agendas of protesters," she says.
Minimal sharing of those demands coupled with excessive sharing of violence on social media can also be harmful, she adds.
"Social media offers really powerful media power to individuals," says Dr. Kilgo.
Many people are using social platforms to share moments from protests they feel have been overlooked. Here are a few moments of unity, solidarity, and love from Black Lives Matter protests across the country shared on Twitter.
Newark, New Jersey
A crowd of protesters in Newark, New Jersey broke out in dance when a car blasted the "Toosie Slide" song. Justin Cenedo, who had been marching with the group for hours that day, took out his phone to share this moment on Twitter, alongside the message: "Put this on the news."
"I wanted to show just like a different narrative on these protests," he says in an interview with the Monitor. "Everybody was on the same step, on the same beat. And you saw the unity. So I just wanted to show that there's some good out of most of this bad that they're showing on the news."
Brooklyn, New York
San Diego, California
Thousands of protesters do an 8-minute moment of silence at San Diego County Admin Building. Peaceful and no police in sight. pic.twitter.com/WJlRNwKCCj— K.C. Alfred (@KCAlfredPhoto) June 1, 2020
Shomari Stone, an NBC reporter in Washington, captured the moment when a young black man jumped the gated barrier in Lafayette Park near the White House. Then a white girl jumped the barrier and put herself between the young man and U.S Park Police to protect him, on May 31. "I will never forget this moment," the reporter tweeted.
Rochester, New York
Protesters in Kentucky shielded a Louisville Metro Police Officer who had been separated from his fleet. Darren Lee Jr., a local daycare owner, was among the men who decided to form a humane barricade in front of the lone officer when Mr. Lee noticed the officer getting nervous, according to WBTV.
"The thing is we have to lean on each other," Elec Simon, a percussionist and motivational speaker told protesters in Ohio. The crowd then joined him into a rendition of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me."
Dr. Kilgo reminds audiences to remember that what's being shown on TV and printed in newspapers captures only a small fraction of what's happening on the ground. Individuals need to do more to educate themselves before quickly forming an opinion off of one video or story, she adds.
"What you're looking at is mediated," Dr. Kilgo says. "It is not a reality. There is one person in between you and what you're seeing, and they're only giving you a moment of it, even if they're doing a 360 [degree] pan."