It started with a damning video of a black man pinned with a knee to his neck, gasping for air and mumbling “I can’t breathe,” while onlookers yelled at police officers to ease off.
The man, George Floyd, and his alleged murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked protests against racialized police violence, first engulfing cities across the United States and then reverberating across the world, including here in Metro Vancouver.
Now the protest movement has looped back to social media under the banner of #blackouttuesday, a day to mute social media in solidarity with black communities.
That’s prompted thousands of people across the world and scores of people here in the Tri-Cities — including the mayor of Port Coquitlam — to post blacked-out images on their Instagram feeds in lieu of anything else.
The campaign to disrupt the work week Tuesday started in the music industry under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused and quickly gained traction among major labels and celebrities.
Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, who launched the hashtag, note on their website that the day was meant to “hold the industry at large” and “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”
Nowhere do the two women call on little black squares to be posted on Instagram, and as the campaign morphed into #blackouttuesday, that’s sparked pushback from celebrities like Lil Nas X, who tweeted early Tuesday, “This is not helping us” and that people “need to see what’s going on.”
this is not helping us. bro who the hell thought of this?? ppl need to see what’s going on https://t.co/fN492qsxaa— nope (@LilNasX) June 2, 2020
Other activists have come out saying the social media protest could have the unintended consequence of drowning out important information and silence nuanced discussion.
Be strategic about #BlackOutTuesday.— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) June 2, 2020
Don’t use #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter with it. It suppresses vital information.
Still post about what Black people are experiencing.
Post what’s happening at protests + get involved with them.
Educate + share resources about white supremacy.
Here in Metro Vancouver, there has been a sharp uptick in hate crimes in recent weeks, most of it anti-Asian and hate-motivated, according to Vancouver police.
Coquitlam RCMP say its seen a lot of stressed out people calling each other names and fighting, often invoking racial slurs.
“Since the start of COVID-19, we’ve been keeping an eye on the hate-related incidents,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Michael McLaughlin. “We’ve had a couple of incidents, certainly, involving graffiti, mischief,” “We haven’t seen a serious increase. Of course, any amount is concerning.”
Coquitlam Coun. Trish Mandewo recently told The Tri-City News she fears people are just keeping it quiet.
In recent months, she’s heard of children switching schools and families being subjected to radicalized comments in a WhatsApp group.
If they are keeping quiet now, it could be because they don't know where to go or how to get support, said Mandewo.
“I would like to see council take leadership… When I brought it up, I said, ‘Let’s educate and let’s tell people it's not OK,’ and even if our council doesn’t have anything to do with freedom of speech [laws], we want to be a community that is welcoming,” said Mandewo.
“A lot of people deal with racism by avoiding: ‘If I don’t see it maybe it doesn’t exist,’” said Coun. Trish Mandewo, who chairs Coquitlam’s multiculturalism committee. “But from people on the other side, they feel it.”
— with files from Diane Strandberg