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'They would rather hashtag us than protect us': BLM leaders discuss progress since George Floyd's murder

2020 was a summer of racial reckoning in the United States, but how much of it stuck?

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Wednesday marks two years since a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

Protests took hold around the world as the video of the murder went viral. It was a summer of racial reckoning in the United States, but how much of it stuck?

In 2020 First Coast News spoke with the female leaders of Jacksonville's Black Lives Matter movement. Two years after that conversation, the women are still fighting for equality.

They fear the impact of the 2020 protests is fading as new laws limit how race is taught in schools, the Jacksonville area loses a Black congressional seat due to redistricting, and a rise in white supremacy becomes apparent with the most recent killing of 10 Black people in Buffalo, apparently because of their race.

"In 2020, we had no idea how the pandemic would be a cover for, I'm gonna say an assault on Black women's rights," said Nubian Roberts, standing with a sign outside the state attorney's office.

Roberts is joined by women from across Florida representing the nonprofit Dignity Power. She points to multiple instances in the last week and a half that involve Black women.

Video from last week shows a Black woman getting punched by a man at an Arlington gas station. Activists this week are calling for charges to be dropped against Diamonds Ford who shot through her window when police officers were serving a no-knock warrant. Last week there were also multiple protests against teachers allegedly using racial slurs.

"They would rather hashtag us than protect us," said Tray Johns, executive director of Dignity Power. "The only thing that continues to happen is when they understand the true power that we have, they come and move the goal posts."

Roberts recently drove to Tallahassee to protest Governor Ron DeSantis’ redistricting map eliminating Jacksonville's Black Congressional representative.

"More things are happening since Breonna Taylor and nothing is changing," Roberts said. 

"It's an assault on the power of Black women," said Johns. "But we still ain't going nowhere."

Gains have been made. Since the summer of 2020, the U.S. elected its Black woman vice president. There has been a record number of candidates seeking and winning congressional seats, though representation is not at a record high, according to Rutgers University. Support for Black-owned businesses has grown.

"We're starting to understand our power," said Trish Brown. "And we're starting to understand that coming together with our power, we can make the change that we want. "

"Twenty-twenty and the aftermath was living proof," said Johns. "It showed that no matter what, we will rise up in the streets and we will do what needs to be done."

They encourage everyone to understand laws that could affect them and to join an organization that works for equal rights.

President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order on policing Wednesday, according to ABC. Most of the order focuses on federal law enforcement agencies, such as requiring them to review policies on use of force. 

Credit: First Coast News

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