On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a Minneapolis man, died after being detained by Minneapolis police. Video evidence of Floyd’s arrest showed Derek Chauvin, a now-ex-police officer, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd struggled to breath.
The death of George Floyd rekindled the flame of the Black Lives Matter movement across the nation, sparking protests and riots nationwide.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln students have been among the crowds that took to the streets in the last week, calling out for justice. The Daily Nebraskan has documented the series of events here, and will continue to update this story as the situation evolves.
Thursday, May 28
A small crowd of about 50 gathered outside the Omaha Police Department to protest the death of Floyd, and a similar gathering occured in Lincoln, according to University of Nebraska-Omaha student Pamila Laam, a junior criminal justice major.
Laam said that she has attended every protest possible in Lincoln, and that she plans to continue to attend as many as possible.
“Being a young black woman, I just felt like it was very important for me to step out and show that me, as well as others, can make a difference in this city, in this state and in this country,” Laam said.
Friday, May 29
Friday morning, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to the Star Tribune.
Protesters congregated in both Lincoln and Omaha. While the protests started peacefully, by the end of the night both locations faced destruction of property. In Omaha, the Target located at 72nd and Dodge streets suffered damage by rioters, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Jordan Ramsey, a sophomore athletic training major at UNL, attended the protest in Omaha that night. It took her breath away, Ramsey said, seeing that many people come together for a common goal.
“I’ve never seen that many Black people in Nebraska,” she said. “There was so much power.”
For Ramsey, the protests and movement were personal. She said that since she was young, her parents have instructed herself along with her siblings on how to talk and act so as to not be racially profiled by the community and the police. Even then, she said that she fears for her family’s safety.
“My biggest fear is one day seeing my brothers on the news,” Ramsey said through her tears. “Or having them see me.”
In Lincoln, protests were peaceful until the early hours of the next day, according to KOLN.
Also on Friday, the Lincoln Police Department released a statement regarding the death of Floyd.
“The Lincoln Police Department wishes to extend its deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd. This incident has fractured not only the relationship between Minneapolis residents and their police department, but potentially every police-community relationship in the country,” the statement said.
Saturday, May 30
Early Saturday morning, protests in Lincoln turned destructive after a protester was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of South 25th and O streets, and an EZ GO gas station was broken into and looted, according to KOLN. Police used tear gas to break up the crowd, and some protesters reportedly threw fireworks at the officers.
The crowds dispersed around 5:30 a.m., after a Metro by T-Mobile store suffered damages as well. Lincoln Police Chief Jeffrey Bliemeister stated that arrests had been made, and some officers sustained injuries.
Saturday evening, both Lincoln and Omaha saw continued protests that spiraled into riots. In Lincoln, protests were peaceful until around 11 p.m., according to the Lincoln Journal Star, when police at the scene began deploying tear gas in response to individuals in the crowd throwing objects at the officers.
Laam said she hopes support for the movement continues and people continue to come out and protest.
“I just want people to continue to come out and show their support,” she said. “Especially non-black folk … I feel like they are able to be allies with us and use their voice.”
In Omaha, the protesting began again at 10 p.m. and carried into early the next morning. At approximately 11 p.m., a 22-year-old protester named James Scurlock was shot and killed, and a suspect was arrested, according to the Hastings Tribune. The Omaha World-Herald confirmed that the man in custody was local bar owner Jake Gardner.
Omaha’s Police Chief Todd Schmaderer told KETV Omaha that officers made 51 arrests on Saturday.
Sunday, May 31
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced a state of emergency following the second night of protests. Additionally, she enacted a 72-hour curfew starting Sunday night that prohibited gatherings of 25 or more, as well as any public activity between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to KETV.
The National Guard was also deployed to Omaha and worked alongside local police. A National Guard spokesman told the Omaha World-Herald that the main focus of the troops will be to protect people and property.
“This is the last thing I want, and that's not who we are,” Schmaderer told KETV-Omaha. “We do not want a military occupation.”
A protest at the birth site of Malcom X that afternoon was peaceful, according to the Omaha World-Herald. James Scurlock II attended the protest to ask the protestors to remain peaceful on behalf of his late son, according to KETV.
An OPD report released Monday morning said approximately 130 arrests were made after the 8 p.m. curfew Sunday night, according to WOWT.
In Lincoln, the same curfew was set by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird for Sunday night. Several protesters were arrested for continuing their demonstration past the set curfew, according to KOLN.
Ramsey attended the protest, and said she was glad to see several Husker Football players in attendance.
“It was good to see that they were there,” she said. “A lot of people look up to them in Nebraska.”
Ramsey also said she’s glad to see so many Nebraskans taking a stand for Black Lives Matter.
“When people think of Nebraska, they think of corn,” she said. “But the fact that now we’re being known as people who are taking charge and going against things that are wrong in the world, wrong in our country, is just legendary.”
Monday, June 1
Gaylor Baird announced Monday that Lincoln would again face a curfew from 9 p.m. that night until 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, following in Omaha’s lead of imposing a second night of curfew, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
In a press conference at 1:30 p.m., Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced that Gardner, responsible for the death of Scurlock, had acted in self-defense and would not face any charges, according to KOLN.
The UNL administration spoke on the matter of the protests, with Marco Barker, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, releasing a statement on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion webpage.
“The series of events that we are seeing today and the civil rights moments in our history point to an echoing call for systemic change,” Barker said in the statement.
More protests ensued that evening, and Lincoln’s remained mostly peaceful, resulting in the city not announcing a curfew for Tuesday night, according to KOLN. Later in the night, after the protest had dispersed, KOLN reported that a separate group broke off and vandalized a local Target store.
Meanwhile in Omaha, protests began peacefully, and a line of officers and Nebraska National Guard members knelt in solidarity at one point, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
"The Minneapolis police officer was in the wrong. I fully believe that,” one officer said to the World-Herald. “To show people that we are on their side, and not against them, speaks volumes.”
However, tensions grew after the 8 p.m. curfew when arrests were made. A bottle was thrown at the officers, a pepper ball thrown back, and by the end of the night two city buses were filled with arrested protesters, the World-Herald reported.
Tuesday, June 2
Lincoln police and community organizers announced that they will reveal a new method for holding police accountable on Wednesday. The announcement took place during a wreath laying at a memorial to Floyd and other victims of police violence, located at the Malone Community Center, according to NET News.
They said that the plan will include the LPD disciplinary board, as well as the police chief and members of the community.
In Omaha, protesters gathered at the steps to city hall, but the protest ended peacefully for the first time in five nights as the crowd dispersed by the 8 p.m. curfew, according to the Omaha World-Herald.