On Sunday, Richard Grant, an Army veteran and an aspiring photographer, went out to the protests in his community of Long Beach, California, as citizens amassed to decry the senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asphyxiated him by grinding his knee into his neck.
As Grant would describe the scene in an Instagram caption, “A man stands with his child in front of the police during demonstrations Sunday in downtown Long Beach. Police pointed rubber bullet guns to get crowds to back away.” He elaborated, “This man stood with his child most of the time until the police started using concussive grenades but they never fired on him but did occasionally pointed [sic] their rubber bullet guns towards him.”
Grant’s photo, posted Monday, has rocketed around the internet, an immediately iconic image of the highly militarized police forces facing off with peaceful protesters around the United States and often the instigators of any violence we’re witnessing. As of this writing Tuesday morning, it has more than 181,000 likes on Twitter and almost 83,000 retweets.
— Richard Grant (@richardgrant88) June 1, 2020
While cable news runs an endless loop of any violence that’s taken place at the protests precipitated by the killing of George Floyd, another set of images and videos being shared on social media illuminates what’s really going on. In this sense, social media, for all its many flaws, does have power to inform.
Public perception can move slowly—or all at once—and often it is a searing image of horror that has the most impact to make change. Americans’ view of the Vietnam War was forever changed after seeing the photograph of a naked girl who’d been napalmed.
Grant’s photograph of a small African American child on her dad’s shoulders in what looks like a Batman outfit faced off against a small phalanx of cops, with one aiming a gun that fires rubber bullets (which can inflict significant damage) point blank at her holds that kind of power. No offense to Grant, but look on social media and there are so many more images and videos that’ll make you say, “Whaaaaaaat the f—- is wrong with people?”