Citizen Journalism Shows what the Media Doesn't

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Jun. 2 2020, Published 2:32 p.m. ET

The protests occurring across the nation have taken over news cycles but rarely is the full story told. The imagery of burning businesses, riots and looting are taking up the airwaves in an attempt to remove the validity of the issues behind the protest. This violence, often taken out of context, gives those who oppose the Black Lives Matter movement a crutch to argue against it. What is rarely being shown and communicated are the numerous, first hand accounts of citizens attending these events. The videos show cops and other undercover agents destroying property and inciting the violence. At times like these when the media proves to be untrustworthy, society becomes reliant on citizen journalism to get the full scope of what exactly is happening in U.S cities today. 

The current protests sparked after the recent unjust killing ofGeorge Floyd. Police brutality and unjust killings, however, have been a prominent issue in the Black community for years and Floyd’s death is deemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Many of those in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been seen peacefully protesting until the police begin to use unnecessary force to silence them. Once the violence breaks out, the news cameras start rolling to show the utter chaos ensuing in some cities. This led to President Trump calling for the National Guard to be deployed and for the nation to excuse a militant state

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Because of police escalation, many innocent citizens have suffered. In Austin, Texas, the police fired “less-lethal rounds” that struck a 20-year-old man’s head and as people brought him away for medical attention, officers continued firing. There was also a teenage boy who suffered serious injury. But perhaps the most disheartening incident stemming from this city is that of a young, expecting mother who lost her child because she was struck in the stomach with non-lethal ammunition. 

Despite this story getting local coverage, the main scope of what is happening is not making it to mainstream media leading to misinformation and unjust opinions. Right now, the best source for actual information is coming from citizen journalists who attend these events first hand. The term citizen journalism is defined just as it sounds: regular citizens using their phones and social media help report on instances. A lot of videos have surfaced across Twitter, TikTok and Instagram that tell a different story than the one mainstream news channels are showing. 

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In Indianapolis, one citizen account reports that police were firing tear gas at medical tents as they were treating protestors. And another citizen on TikTok reported a similar incident in Minneapolis. Numerous reports across social media also show the police unnecessarily using tear gas and pepper spray on protestors. A viral video that surfaced on TikTok shows New York State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson explaining to the police, “They just pepper sprayed me for no reason.” She continues to give the officer’s name and badge number before continuing to say, “If anyone knows the law, trust me I know it. We were only peacefully assembling… [They] literally put their fists up to fight us! We’re not here to fight.” 

Another video shows a group of New York protestors in the street, peacefully chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” as a group of officers in riot gear began approaching from across the block. Despite not charging, despite not rioting, looting or inciting violence in any way, the police threw over a canister of tear gas

None of these citizen journalism videos or the content within them have been making their way to mainstream media. Videos on Twitter and other sites suggest that the riots and destruction of communities have actually been started by the police themselves. One video shows a group of Boston police officers breaking windows while another shows New York City police officers vandalizing their own vehicle. TikTok user Christianglamlopez attended the protests in Los Angeles where he said everything was peaceful until something odd happened. “I have to say something right now, he said emotionally. “It was peaceful. The cop cars that got set on fire were parked for hours. Out of nowhere, it combusted. I don’t think it was the protestors, I really don’t.” 

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Just today, a video surfaced on Twitter which shows two Boston policemen placing bricks outside the Twitter user’s apartment. If you listen closely, you can hear in the background, “yeah those are f*cking bricks. What the f*ck? There collecting all of those bricks so the protestors can use them, dude… That or they’re doing that for undercover police officers that are getting involved in the protest so that they have an excuse to beat the sh*t out of people.”

By taking away this side of the narrative, the entire country is left misinformed about injustices occurring at the actual protests. Making the public fearful allowed for cities to set unrealistic curfews while shutting down roads, public transit and other motives of transport to trap people in. These new rules also have led to even more unjust treatment. A video of a couple driving on Twitter sees the police using a terrifying amount of force to stop their car and get them out. They start hitting the car with their batons, breaking their windows, and even tase the driver despite the fact that he remained as calm as possible. All of this happened because they broke the curfew. 

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Another woman Tweeted her experience writing, “I got locked up for being out after the curfew and I wasn’t even protesting. I was just going to buy tampons… I had no clue of the curfew.” They held her for 14 hours and confiscated her phone. 

It is important at times like these to take mainstream media with a grain of salt. When you see protestors posting first hand accounts, it’s imperative to share them in any way you can to keep educating people about what is happening. These injustices go unnoticed in the dark, make sure to keep shedding the light.

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