A year has passed since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the beginning of the social justice demonstrations that sprang up across the country to protest his death. It followed the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the police-involved killing of Breonna Taylor earlier last year. The frustration that arose in response to their deaths sparked the revitalized “Black Lives Matter” protest movement of the summer of 2020.
Now many involved in the movement fear that much has gone unchanged, and the opportunity for change has passed.
Trust in the Black Lives Matter movement fell between last June and this March, while trust in local police and law enforcement rose, according to one national poll. A wide range of progressive legislation passed last year when the moment was ripe for change, but reform efforts have stalled since then.
“I don’t feel as if the changes that we were fighting for last year have been made in the ways that would be as effective as possible for BIPOC to actually thrive within this country,” said Kris Dorval, a lifelong resident of Elmont, using a popular acronym meaning Black, Indigenous and other people of color.
Dorval, 19, filmed nearly 2,000 clips of protests led by Long Island Peaceful Protest last summer. The organization was founded by brothers Tiandre and Terrel Tuosto last June. The first organized protest took place that month, when 500 people marched onto the Southern State Parkway in North Merrick and shut it down for about two hours.
That night, Terrel previously told the Herald, police worked with the protesters to make sure everyone was safe, but when they took to the streets of East Meadow eight days later, “everything was different.”
At the protest in Merrick, Tuosto explained, both sides of Merrick Avenue were cordoned off for the march to the parkway, but in East Meadow, demonstrators were allowed to march on only one side of Hempstead Turnpike. And, he said, it was the first time police officers drove alongside them and rows of officers marched next to them, pushing back those who veered off course.
When an officer stopped short that afternoon, Terrel Tuosto bumped into him, and two officers pinned Tuosto to the pavement and handcuffed him. Tiandre had been taken into custody the same way a few minutes earlier, and a third man was arrested in much the same way shortly afterward.
Dorval said he felt compelled to document the protests in his hometown of Elmont. “The protests were important to me, due to what we were protesting for: justice for a man who was murdered by a cop who simply couldn’t do his job right,” Dorval said. “They continue to be important for me because it forces people, whether they like it or not, to be attentive to issues that plague our world.”
Dorval used his footage to create a documentary titled “The MVMT,” which was released in February.
He commended the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was set to be sentenced this week for his role in Floyd’s killing, but noted that many more police officers elude charges.
“Juneteenth being a national holiday is nice,” Dorval said, referring to President Biden’s executive action last week making June 19, a day long celebrated for marking the end of slavery in the United States, a national holiday. “But we need to see more things that bring legitimate [progress] for those that have been suffering for too long. People are still getting arrested for unjustified reasons; people are still brutalized by police; people that have been murdered by police still haven’t gotten their justice,” Dorval added, citing the absence of charges brought against the police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor.
“The work never stops,” he said. “If we stop fighting for change, equal [rights], equity, and justice, they’ll tear everything that we’ve built up right back down.”
What does the future hold for the Black Lives Matter movement and the pursuit of further police reform in the U.S.?
“More work always needs to be done,” Dorval said. “More people need to be involved in their own communities, spreading awareness of injustices that take place within their own towns and the towns around. More people need to know about the ones that are in power and have control over our neighborhoods. People need to become knowledgeable about our laws and our rights. How? By protesting.”
Although Long Island Peaceful Protest does not plan to hold more protests in Elmont, Dorval said he would be willing to document more demonstrations in his hometown in the future.
“If I’m not busy on the day of a protest, I’m more than willing to go out there and shoot,” he said. “I feel like it’s still necessary to capture the injustices of the Island and the reactions of those injustices from people that live within the Island. I wouldn’t dare [step] into a protest without a camera in hand.”
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