Jun 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The bottom-up revolution goes global, viral

Photos (clockwise from top left): Julia Rendleman/Reuters, Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP, Francisco Seco/AP, Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP)

The bottom-up revolution ignited by the killing of George Floyd is spreading and appears to be sticking, toppling statues and statutes in a cultural and intellectual uprising the world hasn't seen in 50 years.

Why it matters: Fueled by social media and live news coverage, fury over George Floyd's murder on Memorial Day raced across the country within days — and around the world within a week.

  • The underlying injustices had been obvious for centuries. But this searing outrage, caught on video that was instantly everywhere, has captured the attention of a distracted world and has already produced durable changes.

The big picture... Executive Editor Sara Kehaulani Goo points out the breadth of the response by governments at all levels:

In our polarized times, few things unite the country and push those in power to act. So it's remarkable how this has in 19 days.

The stunning photos above are from (clockwise from top left) Richmond, Miami, Brussels and St. Paul.

  • In London's Parliament Square, wartime prime minister Winston Churchill is literally in a box (below), boarded up to deter further vandalism.
Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

Along with the aerial shots of massive rallies — with "BLACK LIVES MATTER" emblazoned in lettering that stretches the width of American streets — these images will help future generations grasp what we're living through.

  • "This is the streets talkin' for themselves," comedian Dave Chappelle says in a surprise Netflix special, "8:46," that got 12 million YouTube views in 24 hours. "They don’t need me right now."

The obliteration of statues symbolizes momentous change:

  • Police departments around the world are banning neck restrains and chokeholds, and the "defund the police" debate is already causing governments at all levels to rethink the role and powers of law enforcement.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement went mainstream, embraced by corporations and drawing diverse crowds. Sen. Mitt Romney, Republicans' presidential nominee eight years ago, marched in D.C. and said on camera: "Black lives matter."
  • We showed you in Axios PM that support for Black Lives Matter increased as much in two weeks as it had in two years, as the N.Y. Times also pointed out.

Workplaces have been transformed, with a raft of media executives booted.

  • Big Tech, long criticized for its lack of diversity, rushed to make amends.
  • Our kids will be baffled that it was common to see Confederate battle flags at family-filled NASCAR races. The displays were banned this week and the Army, Navy and Marines all moved to banish the flags from public spaces.
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell posted a video saying: "[W]e were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest." He stopped short of crediting of Colin Kaepernick.

The bottom line: We're on the leading edge of a wave of change that was unimaginable 19 days ago when George Floyd cried out, muffled by a white man who didn't listen to the shouting around him: "I can't breathe."

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