Over the past week, people who are fed up have been defying social distancing orders for one good reason.
Although COVID-19 has become a major issue around the globe, the pandemic couldn’t keep people from hitting the streets to protest police violence.
Ever since fired cop Derek Chauvin was caught on video sophisticating George Floyd with a knee to the neck, people have been screaming “I can’t breathe!” Ever since Floyd died after the brutal arrest from four officers, folks have been yelling “stop killing us!”
People have also been screaming “Say her name!” in places like Louisville — where Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home after a “no-knock” warrant from the police. Demonstrators have cried “Black trans lives matter!” in places like New York and Tallahassee where Tony McDade was killed by Tallahassee police after the neighborhood’s history of state and neighborhood violence.
Clearly, the tragedies of such events were worth the risks of protests. Health experts were already warning of a second wave of the coronavirus after its already disproportionately ravaged Black communities. Now with the demonstrations across the globe, there’s a chance that the second wave might come sooner than later.
However, the future effects should not entirely be placed on the protestors. Despite the near impossibility of social distancing during a protest, people have still been wearing personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, N95 masks, bandanas, and more.
For folks who weren’t following guidelines to the tee, the police presence at the protests wasn’t making anything better.
Across the country, cops have been utilizing weapons like mace and tear gas to attack protestors or to make crowds disperse.
In our nation’s capital alone, cops used pepper irritant — a type of tear gas classified by the U.S. Center for Disease Control — to clear protestors in Lafayette Square so Donald Trump could participate in a photo-op in front of a church.
According to The New York Times, the use of tear gas can cause damage to people’s lungs and make them more susceptible to contracting a respiratory disease such as COVID-19. The gas can also cause coughing, which can further spread the coronavirus from an infected individual.
Sven-Eric Jordt, a researcher at Duke University who has studied the outcomes of tear gas agents, said that he was shocked at the ways authorities have been trying to control protestors.
“I’m really concerned that this might catalyze a new wave of Covid-19,” Mr. Jordt said. The pandemic has already caused 106,000 deaths in the United States alone.
Black communities have witnessed disproportionately higher deaths due to the coronavirus. Considering many of the protests have been led by Black people, there’s no telling how folks will be affected once the protests subside.
Black people already disproportionately suffer pre-conditions like asthma and heart disease, which can impact their ability to fight the coronavirus. More Black and brown people also tend to be essential workers, so professionals were already working in high risks jobs, which could potentially spread the disease to their community.
Protestor’s exposure to tear gas and pepper spray isn’t helping the situation.
And it’s tragic to think that much of this started when George Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”