On Wednesday, July 6th, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a Falcon Heights, MN police officer. His girlfriend, Diamond ‘Lavish’ Reynolds, recorded the aftermath of the deadly encounter on Facebook Live to share what happened with the world. Her first words to the public were “Stay with me” then she panned to Philando, bleeding in the passenger seat while Lavish’s 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat of the car the entire time, witnessing this injustice in real time.
The day before, in the southern part of the country, Alton Sterling’s shooting by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, LA was recorded by nearby convenience store owner, and Alton’s friend, Abdullah Muflahi. Arthur Reed, a Black Lives Matter and activist against street violence heard the arrest on a police scanner, also came on the scene to record video. Police asked Abdullah for his footage, which he refused without a warrant but the video was taken anyway. But thanks to Arthur’s video, protesters hit the streets almost immediately.
In 2014, social media alerted millions to the murder of Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, MO. Cell phone footage showed Michael’s lifeless body lying on the street, setting America off in protest and anger.
Eric Garner was strangled by a white police officer in Staten Island, NY. Eric’s death not only spurred the hashtag #ICantBreathe but the disturbing video leading up to his death spread virally through social media, igniting numerous rallies and protests against police brutality toward Black men.
When Islamic militant group Boko Haram kidnapped 270 girls from Chibok boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, a group of locals started the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The plea went viral, catching even the attention of Michelle Obama.
‘Citizen journalism’ has been used—and will continue to be used—to highlight important injustices. Facebook Live and Periscope were even used by Democrats in the House of Representatives to livestream their protest to the lack of movement on gun control legislation.
Social media is a powerful tool. It activates people, it shows the truth, it highlights injustice, and if you have a cell phone you can help too. If you see something, film something. Change is gonna come.