Documenting and amplifying police brutality has been a crucial aspect of the Black Lives Matter movement. This continues during the ongoing uprising, with new innovations.
How movement moments are being captured is a whole new ball game – from Tik Tok and Instagram to online public spreadsheets. It’s no longer just in the hands of ‘official’ journalists and photographers – everyone with a smartphone who chooses to record and upload to social media is documenting the now.
These resources will give you a sense of how people involved in Black Lives Matter are documenting the current movement moment. We’ve also included links to tips and articles to help you get started with documenting and archiving.
The power of a public spreadsheet
Recording police brutality is a powerful act but it becomes even more effective when that information is collected and analysed. A group of activists in the US including a lawyer and a mathematician have taken responsibility for setting up systems that make that possible. There are so many videos of police brutality towards protestors that Miller, the mathematician, wanted to create a way for videos to be easily accessed and sorted. They created a Google spreadsheet of videos posted on Twitter and backed up all the videos on Google Drive. The evidence is everywhere.
Here are some articles about and links to the online public spreadsheet of police violence that keeps growing every day.
- ‘It’s Obvious There’s a Cultural Rot’: Activists Collect Hundreds of Examples of Alleged Police Misconduct in One Public Spreadsheet, Time Magazine, 7/06/2020 [Article]
- GeorgeFloyd Protest – Police brutality videos on Twitter [Google Spreadsheet]
- Greg Doucette Police Brutality Twitter Thread Video Archive [Google Drive]
- Police Brutality Repository [GitHub]
There is also an online spreadsheet collating all the dance protests that have taken place.
Understanding the connection between technology and movements
Key to capturing these videos on the Black Lives Matters protests is the on-the-streets grassroots video documentation taken by many including Unicorn Riot. This article, Unicorn Riot’s protest coverage recalls long history of grassroots video production (Errol Saloman, The Conversation, 8/6/2020) gives a good history of how grassroots video has grown over time.
Unicorn Riot’s style of reporting aligns well with social media. As my research demonstrates, social media has created more opportunities to call attention to social issues, letting people voice collectively shared struggles and build social movements. – Errol Saloman
It’s not the technology, it’s the movement (Ray Brescia, The Hill, 6/6/2020) examines the connection between technology and social movements, including the current moment and a look at history.
These new technologies are exposing police violence and racism more broadly and may also help bring about social change. But it is not the technology alone that will make that change happen, nor is it the first time that technology has helped spark social consciousness, and, ultimately, social change. As in previous eras, technologies are essential as a means to an end: They can help us connect and build bridges, even across distance; and build community, even despite our differences. – Ray Brescia
Museums, archives and universities play their part
Although documenting this moment is happening in grassroots ways institutions can play a part in collecting, preserving and curating. The City of New York Museum and Black Cultural Archives in the UK have invited contributions.
- Museum invites New Yorkers to share images for documentation, using #ActivistNY on Instagram
- Document! Black Lives Matter, Black Cultural Archives, UK
- George Floyd and anti-racist street art, University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
Tips for documenting movement moments
Documenting and archiving skills enable movement members to tell their side of the story, strengthen campaigns, and provide a record for future activists to learn from.
Read how other moments in the Black Lives Matter movement were captured in Crowdsource your archives: 3 examples of community-based approaches including the Ferguson uprising in Missouri (2014) following the death of Michael Brown and the Baltimore Uprising (2015) following the death of Freddie Gray.
If you want to get started with recording, documenting and archiving see these resources on The Commons Library:
- Activist Archiving: Start Here
- Documenting social change in Australia: A list of archives at your fingertip
- Get archiving! Archivist Activist backpacks, hackathons and other ideas
- Tips and tools for archiving video and social media
- Beginner’s guide to making video with your smartphone