Earlier this week, a white former US police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murdering George Floyd, a Black man. Floyd died last May after Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes, sparking waves of protests against police brutality and racial injustice across the US.
Parallels between Floyd’s death were drawn between the death of other Black men at the hands of law enforcement, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown who had both died in 2014 during encounters with white police officers. Photographer Robert Gerhardt shares his images of protests in New York over the years as a reflection during this crucial juncture in the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“I use my work to try to start conversations about the subjects I cover… It is not an epiphany I am trying to create, but a way to get people thinking and talking. And to me that is what good journalism is: not telling people what to think, but giving them the facts and information to think on their own,” the photographer wrote in an essay in last year.
Describing his experience on the ground, Gerhardt wrote: “New York City never saw scenes like those that played out in Ferguson or Baltimore. The police never used tear gas, heavily armoured police vehicles never rolled through the streets, and police who looked more like soldiers than cops never confronted people with weapons drawn. But there were masses of protesters.”
“There were times traffic was blocked on major streets and bridges. There were insults and profanities hurled back and forth. There were arrests. There were signs. There were chants of every kind. There were a few punches thrown. And there were cops. Lots of them. It was wild and crazy and sometimes overwhelming,” he wrote of his time in the midst of the protests.