In response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, young protesters have taken to the streets across the U.S. to demand justice and police reform. Yahoo News spoke to a few young protesters from around the country who ranged in age from five to 29 to document their perspectives on the movement to change how policing is done in America.
- Black lives matter is not about saying your life doesn't matter. They're basically saying is that, I'm your family. So help me when I'm hurting.
- We knew that we could stand by our decision. And if we would have died that day, we would have been OK with it.
- My feelings towards law enforcement have gotten a little stronger, especially after that night. We we're marching down Swan Street. And the police cut us off at the end of the neighborhood. So we tried to turn around. And we realized they cut us off at the start of the neighborhood too. So we're pretty much boxed in.
We really didn't know what to do. We were asking them what they wanted us to do. But they wouldn't talk to us. And then after about 30 minutes, they started moving in, started macing people, hitting people, pushing people.
So I looked over. And I saw my friend running up the steps to Raul's house. And I saw Raul waving people into his house, trying to get as many people in as possible to save us. Nobody knew him before this. He was just supporting us from his porch. And all night he was just amazing, so supportive and just making sure everybody was OK, making sure we knew our rights, making sure our spirits were lifted. It was such a selfless act, really.
So as we were running into the house, they chased us, spraying mace through the doorway. When I first got into the house, there were people laying on the ground just covering their faces, just in pain from the mace. And that was one of the scary things too, because so many people were inside that house. And people were coughing. And it was so close quarters. And there was no, like, air for us to air the place out. And it was a struggle for a while.
They kept trying tactics to try and get into the building. They came to the door and said that somebody inside called for medical help.
- I do not need medical attention.
- When nobody inside called for medical help, they tried to break through the back door. Nobody believed them. Raul made sure everybody was being smart. He gave us business cards so that if we did get in trouble and they tried to say we were breaking into homes, they could just call him, and he would say he invited us in.
They told us that they could arrest us in the morning due to the previous night's violations. But we figured as long as we got enough press to the front door in the morning, we'd be covered. And they wouldn't harass this on national TV. So that's what we did. And we ended up getting out safe.
We can't let this die out after a few weeks. We have to keep it going, hopefully past the presidential election.
- All of you are my family. All of you are my family. I love each and every one of you.
GEE JORDAN: I knew if I can get maybe just one, one officer to kneel down and hold my arm, look at me in my eyes and say we changed the world together, woo, that's powerful. That sends a message. But I knew if I wanted to deliver that type of message, I can not go out attacking these offices.
I was arrested for disobeying a lawful order because they told us to move. I did this. Let's deal with the consequences. And people don't want to pay up. Police officers don't want to pay up. People who are looting don't want to pay up. Peaceful protesters don't want to pay up. You know, like me, because I didn't have a permanent, you know? So even though I was peaceful, I didn't have a permit. I took that experience and made it a learning experience.
I did two other protests I did. But this was a straight peaceful protest. The cops actually helped us March across Arthur Avenal Bridge. So we were safe. Obviously, law enforcement has had to do better. You know, that's the obvious. But in order for them to do better, we have to communicate with them better.
DEON JONES: We actually thought that that was going to be a very peaceful protest. And then as we began to March through the streets of west Hollywood, we found that we met a line of police in riot gear. And they began to incite and instigate violence. There was a police cruiser that became ablaze. And the smoke began to billow so bad you really couldn't see. And the police really just went at it.
And that going get at it included, you know, a Billy club coming down like this on me. I saw a police officer aim their rubber bullet gun at me and shoot towards me. And as I turned to the left to try to escape that, I feel the impact on my right side of my face. The rigging felt as if I was on a countdown to death. My skin had come off of my face.
Thankfully, there was a medical professional who was in the area also protesting who ran over with a first aid kit to put my skin back on my face and wrap my head. I had a head injury. My entire zygoma area, two bones are still broken there as I speak to you. And back here, my face was busted open. And I just was able to get stitches out last week.
My doctor told me that it was literally an inch from my temple and an inch from my eye, so either I would've been blinded or dead. I'm one of many stories of people who had been hit with a Billy club or shot with a rubber bullet.
I am not moved by police kneeling with protesters. I am not moved with police marching with protesters. I am not moved with police hugging protesters. That is not what we on the streets are doing. That is not what we have asked them to do because a police kneeling with me and a police hugging me doesn't negate the fact of a police officer busting my face open.
I don't need people to paint streets Black Lives Matter and see them from space. What I need is to see that city budgets show that we are de-investing in the police and reinvesting those dollars across communities that really need them in terms of health care, education, parks and recreation, social services.
I believe there needs to be a reimagining of public safety. We don't need armed police officers to respond to every situation and every 911 call. It is seen across the country that they don't have the training nor the capacity to do that without someone showing up dead. So right now there is for me no trust in police officers.
SIMEON BARTEE: The thought of going down there is, of course, to represent George Floyd and the injustice that he faced in being killed. But we also have a personal connection with police brutality because my brother Jerome Bartee was beaten into a coma in Harris County Jail where he had to get face reconstructive surgery. He had a fractured nose. He had an orbital blowout. So we dealt with this personally in our family. Luckily, he didn't die like George Floyd died.
That was one of the reasons why we wanted to bring Simone out for her uncle and even at five to let her know that she always can speak out when it's injustice or if it's anything going wrong in the world to have that voice.
- I was talking to the police officers. And there's a lot of people there.
- We're not here to hurt you at all. OK?
SIMEON BARTEE: I believe from my interaction with officer bill, when he was walking by, he noticed her. And she asked him about his protective gear, because once she asks that about are you going to shoot us or are you going to harm us, that's when he began to talk. And if you can see in the video, you can hear my wife saying, don't say that because that was the first time we ever heard her say anything like that.
- Don't say that, OK?
- I'm here to protect you, OK? We're not here to hurt you at all, OK. You can protest. You can march. You can do whatever you want. Just don't break nothing.
SIMEON BARTEE: Even going to the protest, I'd be lying to you if I were to tell you that I wasn't angry and upset. Even during the time where he was talking to my daughter, I still was upset until after I sat down. And while I was recording I was also looking at him too. So it really put me out of balance.
What sealed it for us was when he said that he had a daughter. And even when we left, she told my wife, she said, I didn't know police officers had kids. I don't never want her to think all police officers are bad. And so that was just a perfect balance of just a mixture of being on one side of police brutality and now being on the other side where we can see the perspective of officers. And they have regular lives like we do. And not all of them are racist, or not all of them all out here trying to hurt us.
YALAKESEN BAAHETH: Many of my people, like, we don't stop in Vidor. As a matter of fact, when I was younger, the only time we would stop in Vidor is just to go straight to our friend's house. And we wouldn't go anywhere else.
I asked her, I was like, are you ready for that? Do you understand what you're doing? Because I knew. I was like, you can potentially lose your job. Your family probably won't back you because of safety reasons. She was like, well, that's where I grew up. That's where I was born. That's where my life is. And that's the town that I love. And I was like, you know, we do agree on that.
Sometimes whenever people are given a stereotype, others, they don't give them the chance to correct it. They were the reason why I was like, OK, yes, this is really important. We need to show how the town of Vidor has changed.
We were both planning this peace March. Maddie ended up calling several businesses, seeing if we could have it over there at their location. And every business that she contacted, they were like, no, you cannot have that. And so she was, like, OK, you know what? Why don't we go ahead and just try to call the police department. And see if they could help us out.
And they were actually the ones that suggested that we should do the peace March in Gold Park. The park was dedicated to veterans where the community center was. And it ended up working out so beautifully. Over 200 people were there.
What we felt was just pure love and support. We did have a few people in trucks pass us by. And they were revving their engines. But nobody got out of their vehicles. They were just looking, giving us the eye. Vidor PD was amazing. Like, we appreciate them so much. Everybody was working with us in that department. And we just-- I can never tell you how amazing they are. And that just goes to show how far that they've come and how far we can go.