How the legacy of George Floyd could impact the U.S. election

H.P. Rogers is a young Black photographer in Minneapolis.  His photos are a powerful collection of moments from the protests that enveloped his city in the days and months following the death of George Floyd, who died in late May at the hands of Minneapolis police.

His death triggered a global movement in support of Black lives and in protest of police brutality.

Looking at Rogers’ photos, it’s perhaps surprising to learn that he’s only been taking photos for six months.

“I didn’t really have any motivation to take photos,” Rogers said. “And then after George Floyd happened, it kind of, like, gave me a spark and a realization that what was to follow would be historic and prolific.”

The image that stands out most to Rogers was taken within days of Floyd’s death.

“There was a photo I took on the first day of protesting at the third precinct when the police arrived and they started tear-gassing people.  The group of protesters stood in the tear gas, holding hands as the cops formed a line in front of them,”  he recalled.

“After taking that photo my eyes were burning, my nose was burning, but to see people stand in that for as long as they did just shows the passion and dedication people have for what they’re out here for.”

Rogers believes that passion and dedication will now be carried to the polls.  Four years ago, voter turnout among African Americans dropped sharply across the country.  According to Pew Research, Black voter turnout fell to 59.6 per cent in 2016 after reaching a record 66.6 per cent voter turnout in 2012.

“I think when Donald Trump first ran, they thought it was a joke so maybe they didn’t vote, they didn’t get as involved, but now people see that he did win and it’s real and this can happen again.  I think people are taking it seriously,” said Rogers.

Jamar Nelson agrees.  The Black father has been campaigning for the Democrats for months, and says while he’s excited to cast his ballot, he’s anxious, too.

“This is an election of a lifetime. We hear that cliché bandied about in every election but this, in my 42 years of life, is the most important that I’ll ever be a part of because this could change the trajectory of this country,” Nelson said.

Nelson says he’s excited to cast his ballot in person Tuesday, and this year, he’ll also have his son by his side. Jamar Nelson, Jr.  turned 18 on Monday, the day before voting day.

“I’m excited to have my voice heard,” he said.  “I want to have change for the Black community so everything can be different.”

With excitement comes anxiety, too.   Four years ago, Louis Hunter’s cousin Philando Castille was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minn.   After George Floyd’s death, Hunter shut down his restaurant for a week and handed out free meals to those protesting in the street.

Hunter plans to vote for Joe Biden on Tuesday, but worries for his city should the election go the other way.

“I don’t know.  I can’t even imagine, because its scary,” Hunter said. “I’m hoping for peace even if that happens.”

Back in the neighbourhood where George Floyd died, Butchy Austin sees things differently.

“I really believe what happened here in May was a moral issue and it really had nothing to do with your partisan alignment. ”

Austin plans to vote in this election but he also believes the struggle for racial justice will continue long after election day.

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