The police murder of George Floyd one year ago today touched off the largest wave of protests in American history.
Nearly every day, thousands poured out of quarantine and into the streets of Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan at a time when vaccines were a distant dream.
The Michigan Daily covered dozens of protests last summer, gathering hundreds of on-the-ground interviews and thousands of photographs.
We heard from you: How had racism and police brutality impacted your life? What did it mean to be a young person in that moment in history? Where would we go next?
Why did you march?
“George Floyd was the last straw. We will take our knowledge; we will educate not only ourselves, but our fellow man, our fellow woman, our fellow neighbor and even our oppressor. We will educate all of them. And we will stand up for what is right.” – Jordan Newland, June 2, Ann Arbor
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, a little thing on my shoulder telling me, whispering in my ear, if you encounter the police to come home alive. That’s the gist of it. I wasn’t taught ‘Serve and protect.’ I was taught, ‘Come home alive.’” – Jacob Barlow, June 7, Oak Park
“It’s if you walk up and somebody sees you and they clench their purse or lock their car. I’ve been in personal things where I get pulled over for being Black. I asked the officer, ‘Why was I pulled over?’ and he said, ‘I just ran your plate.’” – Amir Mitchell, June 7, Birmingham
“You may not have to take certain precautions driving, but as a Black man today, I have to. You know, I have a veteran status on my license. I keep my phone positioned on the camera just in case. I keep my wallet where it’s visible. Those things are just like me being a soldier. I have to prepare myself, you never know.” – Karl Jackson, June 6, Royal Oak
“My son is at war the second he walks out that door because of the color of his skin. He’s at war. How does a 14-year-old understand that? Not even a 14-year-old, we’re having these conversations at eight, nine, 10, because these young boys that are getting killed look like him. It’s not okay. And we’re scared.” – Raeshonda Bullock, May 28, Ypsilanti
“I don’t have a record. I’ve never been to jail, but for some reason, it could have been my day for the police officer to have been like, ‘What’s in your pocket, other than your wallet?’ And then you guys would’ve been saying my name instead of someone else’s.” – Adarrey Humphrey, June 6, Ferndale
“I know George Floyd’s name. I know Ahmaud Arbery’s name and Breonna Taylor’s name and Eric Garner’s name and Michael Brown’s name and Sandra Bland’s name. I know Aura Rosser’s name. But I want police names.” – Desirae Simmons, June 5, Ann Arbor
“They get to go home and take off their badge. I can’t go home and wash this off my skin. I’m forever going to be Black, biracial or not, I’m forever going to be Black. They get paid to do this, I’m out here for free.” – Summer Sills, June 6, Sterling Heights
“I have kids out here. I can’t let them leave my side because I don’t know what you’re gonna do for them. I don’t know what you’re gonna do to them … Are you going to protect them because you’re an officer? I’m supposed to be safe and feel safe when I’m around you, but I’m the enemy right now.” – Freedom Jacques. June 6, Ypsilanti
“All I grew up hearing was, ‘You’re a terrorist. You’re a bomber,’ because I’m Muslim. It was like it was me against the world … And I relate so much to what’s going on. Just everything about what the cops are doing right now — I don’t understand how we even have to protest.” – Rasem Piromarm, May 30, Ann Arbor
“Being an African-American male my entire life, I understand the issues. And so, I support the causes, certainly, that people have been protesting recently. Everyone has been tremendous, they’ve been non-violent and protesting the appropriate way, and all I can do is to take my hat off to say thank you.” – Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox, June 1, Ann Arbor
“I see more of the purpose as to why we do this. You just don’t feel the same way looking at a video versus actually being in the crowd and the energy and seeing the love we all have for each other. I knew it was my duty to come back and do what I can.” – Marlon Green, June 1, Ann Arbor
“They’re hearing us. Everybody is finally hearing us. I’m sorry if I cry, but they really hear us.” – Jennifer Parks, June 6, Sterling Heights
“Someone who was here a little earlier wanted us to uncover the “M” so they can take their graduation pictures. And we said no. And the fact is that we are killed and dishonored, regardless of what’s going on in our lives. It could be our graduation day. Breonna Taylor could have celebrated an amazing milestone the day before. That day could have been her graduation day.” – Devon Keen, June 14, Ann Arbor
“If you’re complaining about the eight minutes, you’re in the wrong place.” – Protest organizer, June 7, Livonia
“A lot of times it’s like, we’re serious, but then we’ll go back to our regular lives because we have obligations. With the pandemic going on, this is another pandemic because there’s riots going on across the entire world. This is what our second pandemic is.” – Travis Jones III, May 30, Ann Arbor
“Yes, coronavirus is awful and it’s taking people’s lives, many of our loved ones. But racism has been doing that as well. For many of us who come from communities of color, we see how damaging to our lives racism has been and continues to be.” – Alicia Steele, June 6, Royal Oak
“It’s sad that I can look across my street and see a different view of how people view the world. You can see the difference between the Detroit side and the Grosse Pointe side, and it kinda makes you think why that is. Why do they have more access directly across the street? Not even four lanes, just two lanes stepping across the street.” – Gio Crawford, June 7, Livonia
“It costs almost as much to send someone to prison as it costs to send them to a place like the University of Michigan.” – Joe Summers, Sep. 26, Ann Arbor
“If you see any flag that’s upside down, it means the country’s distraught. The black and white symbolizes America’s death. And that’s why I’m flying it. We need change, we need to rebuild.” – Joshua Berry, June 6, Sterling Heights
“Here we are, putting our lives in danger during a pandemic to protest civil rights. Not equal — civil. We’re asking people to be civil. Asking. We should not have to ask for civil fucking rights. We should not have to fear that our brothers and our sisters and our mothers and our fathers are going to be slaughtered by the ones meant to protect us and save us and help govern our communities.” – Myles McGuire, May 30, Ann Arbor
“We always try to be the bigger person, but Black people always have to be the bigger person in a situation, and that’s what’s really making me mad. We’re always taught to be the bigger person, but nobody else is being the bigger person here. We’re getting so big to everybody so small, so why do we have to be the bigger person and everyone else doesn’t?” – Davion Pipkins, May 28, Ypsilanti
“It’s easy to feel hopeless when you realize that police brutality is only one of the many branches on the tree of oppression. And to see how much energy, how much time, how much blood, sweat and tears has to go into cutting down this one branch, it’s enough to leave people hopeless.” – Carlena Toombs, June 2, Ann Arbor
“I haven’t slept in three days. Every time I fucking close my eyes, all I fucking see is that man putting his hands on my sister, and I just can’t deal with it no more. I can’t hold in my anger. I tried and it’s not working. I’m trying to do this shit the right way, and it’s not working.” – Ann Diggins, May 28, Ypsilanti
“All I can do is march. Sometimes I’m silent. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I’m mad at the world. Sometimes I’m mad at my family. Sometimes I’m mad at my own best friends. But you know what? I look around, and I see a lot of people I don’t know. I feel you all, and everywhere I go, I step for you all. And one thing I want you all to remember: This is not the last day. And when things go back to normal, guess what, they won’t. There ain’t going to ever be a normal. And if you feel like things are getting normal, shake that shit up.” – John C. Clark III, June 1, Troy