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George Floyd protests: CEOs and business leaders respond to nationwide civil unrest

George Floyd protests: CEOs and business leaders respond to nationwide civil unrest
[Photo: David Cliff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

It’s been six days since demonstrations over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police began. In that time, the protests have expanded beyond Minneapolis to more than 75 cities across America, reports the BBC.

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Forty of those cities have imposed curfews, which have been largely ignored, while protests outside of the White House saw President Trump, who has been accused of stoking tensions on Twitter, being briefly taken to an underground bunker to hide.

The protests have also spread internationally, with thousands in cities across the globe joining in to voice solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet the outpouring of support isn’t limited to people on the streets, as a number of high-profile CEOs and business leaders are also weighing in to voice their support for the protests.

Some have done this publicly on social media channels while others have issued internal statements to their company’s employees. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Tim Cook made a public statement on Twitter paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before issuing a statement to Apple employees internally.

From his statement to Apple employees (via MacRumors):

Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.

That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive. While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Mark Zuckerberg made a public statement on Facebook, saying:

The pain of the last week reminds us how far our country has to go to give every person the freedom to live with dignity and peace. It reminds us yet again that the violence Black people in America live with today is part of a long history of racism and injustice. We all have the responsibility to create change.

We stand with the Black community — and all those working towards justice in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and far too many others whose names will not be forgotten.

The pain of the last week reminds us how far our country has to go to give every person the freedom to live with dignity…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, May 31, 2020

Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO

Spiegel has gone further than most. The Snap CEO called for a reparations commission and radical tax changes to address social injustices in America against black people going back centuries. As The Information reports, in a note to employees, Spiegel said:

Economic inequality in America has reached levels unseen for nearly a century, people of color cannot visit a grocery store or go for a jog without fear of being murdered without consequence, and put simply, the American experiment is failing…

We must begin a process to ensure that America’s black community is heard throughout the country, investigate the criminal justice system for bias and prejudice, strengthen the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and take action on recommendations for reconciliation and reparations made by the Commission.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Nadella made the following comments to Microsoft employees in a memo on May 28:

I know it’s not enough to just have empathy for those impacted, for the communities who are experiencing this hate, firsthand, who are scared for their safety, and for their loved ones.

Our identity, our very existence is rooted in empowering everyone on the planet. So, therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to use our platforms, our resources, to drive that systemic change, right? That’s the real challenge here. It’s not just any one incident, but it’s all the things that have led to the incident that absolutely need to change.

We can’t do it alone. I’m grounded in that, I realize that, but together I think we can, and we will drive change.

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

Pichai used Twitter to announce that Google would show solidarity with the black community on its U.S. Google and YouTube home pages.

Brian Cornell, Target CEO

Cornell expressed pain over the death of black men at the hands of police in a statement posted on the company’s website:

We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts. As a Target team, we’ve huddled, we’ve consoled, we’ve witnessed horrific scenes similar to what’s playing out now and wept that not enough is changing. And as a team we’ve vowed to face pain with purpose.

Target stores are among those that have been shuttered due to the continuing protests in some cities.

Aaron Levie, Box CEO

Levie has been tweeting about the protests and their underlying causes. He is one of the only CEOs to publicly condemn Trump by name in relation to stoking violence:

Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has been one of the most outspoken CEOs, arguing for a radical overhaul to police powers and the ability to prosecute police for acts they commit in the line of duty.

Dan Schulman, CEO Paypal

Schulman argued, “We cannot stay silent in the face of racial injustice whether it is within our own communities or outside of them.”

Sasan Goodarzi, Intuit CEO

Goodarzi told Intuit employees that “we can no longer be silent about the deep-rooted racism in our society”:

I believe we can no longer be silent about the deep-rooted racism in our society. I will no longer be silent. We must openly discuss the realities that black people face. Only by having honest discussions, however difficult that may be, will we ever be able to get to a better place.

I have always believed that diversity and inclusion is a core part of who we are and what we stand for. It’s an important part of what makes Intuit so special. But this week’s events, and the unfathomable pattern they are a part of, have made me realize that we are often silent, starting with me, on the racial injustice and discrimination that our colleagues and friends face every day. Not talking openly about racism allows it to grow in the shadows and helps seed the horrific events we have witnessed.

Kenneth Frazier, Merck & Co. CEO

Perhaps the most powerful response so far came from Kenneth Frazier, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck:

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