Youth organizers in Savannah orchestrated a phenomenal protest against police brutality. However, what should have been a peaceful ending to a peaceful protest was negatively impacted by local leadership. Actions taken later on in the night proved that property is valued over Black lives.
Mayor Johnson announced that the implementation of a curfew was dependent on behavior at the protest. According to attendees, news reports, and social media posts, the protest was peaceful.
Nevertheless, at 6:21 p.m. a tweet was sent out via Twitter publicizing that an 8:30 p.m. curfew was put in place.
Many protestors were unaware of the curfew due to several contributing factors including: dead cell phones, lack of service, and the lateness of the notification. This left them with little reactionary time. If he intended to implement a curfew, this could have been communicated at the protest.
The reasoning behind instating the curfew was to ensure that rioting and looting did not occur, in essence, to protect local property. Curfew could be implemented to protect local property from being harmed, yet, a pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 lives, disproportionately impacting Black people, did not move the city enough to implement a curfew. That is pretty revealing about where the city’s priorities lie.
The decision to implement the curfew was poorly communicated and put Black protestors directly in a position of harm. Sixteen protestors were arrested and thirty charges were filed.
Some of these arrests were a direct result of the implementation of the curfew. This is problematic for several reasons:
1. What was the purpose of arresting people, who were peacefully protesting their right to have their humanity respected? Despite claims that protestors became unruly, several videos prove otherwise.
2. Currently, jails are breeding grounds for the spread of COVID-19. Quite literally, arresting them put their lives at risk.
3. During a pandemic, where many people’s income is heavily impacted, having to pay bail is a waste of resources that many people cannot afford. Additionally, the bail system is a discriminatory system that penalizes already over-policed black communities and poor people.
4. Video proof shows that in some of the arrests excessive force was used, even when they were not resisting.
These actions directly undermined the message that Black lives, and Black people’s right to advocate for their lives, matter.