Protesters use digital activism to amplify voices of marginalized groups during fight for justice


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Over the past week protests were carried out nationwide, including in the Upstate.

Some would argue that the outrage was a reaction to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died after a police officer used deadly force to restrain him, others say it’s a reaction to years of police brutality.

The death of Floyd was caught on camera last Monday by a witness nearby, and since then many other brutal and very graphic police altercations with protesters have been shared across all social media platforms.

In the age of smartphones, capturing these sensitive moments help to amplify the voice of marginalized groups, such as those who are victims of police brutality.

Dr. Allissa Richardson, professor at USC and scholar of journalism, race and digital activism, said that the use of smartphones is important during times of crisis, especially for those marginalized groups who are expected to bear the burden of proof in the court of public opinion.

“I look forward to the day where black people don’t have to prove on video that something terrible happened to them. When there are white victims of crimes, for example mass shootings, we don’t ask those questions. We don’t say ‘Well, I need footage,'” Richardson said.

One example she cited was the Las Vegas music festival shooting, when gunman Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition into a concert crowd killing 58 people and injuring 413 with little to no graphic images of deaths expected by consumers of social media.

Richardson told us that she believes that some social media consumers have normalized the death and abuse of black bodies, mentioning that images of Trayvon Martin’s dead body and many other black victims can quickly be found online while images from tragedies such as 9/11 are shielded.

In the era of smartphone journalism, she said that some of these images and videos need to be seen to create a thread to document the patterns of police brutality in America.

“I think smartphones do an excellent job of capturing things that may go under the radar. If you think about the 20th century protests, or some would say riots, that started in major American cities they all started with police brutality. If you think about Watts and the Rodney King uprising, it was all based on police brutality,” Richardson said.

According to Richardson, consumers of smartphone journalism need to stay hyperaware about sharing false or doctored information and research the source.

“What we have to get used to doing is getting used to doing a bit of digging ourselves before we just blindly repost,” said Richardson. “This smartphone witnessing, this black witnessing what people are doing with their phone is a dangerous thing, it’s a necessary thing and we should respect it.”

For more information about the death of George Floyd, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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