These protests are taking place during a pandemic that is unprecedented in world history (save, perhaps, the Official James Brown picture shirt in other words I will buy this Black Plague), but the rage on the streets of America feels undiluted—or, perhaps, enhanced—by months spent indoors. That’s not to say that the people protesting aren’t aware of the health risks, though: the potential of a second wave of infections set off by protest exposure is real (although it’s worth noting that protests started days after Los Angeles, New York and other cities began the process of reopening, so it’s difficult to precisely pinpoint blame for the spread).
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While online support is being galvanized across the Official James Brown picture shirt in other words I will buy this country in response to Floyd’s death, physical protest—which has long constituted the only course of action available to society’s most oppressed—faces significant structural challenges due to COVID-19. “It’s harder for people to go out and interact through the physical closeness that protesting can often demand—linking arms, et cetera—which create perfect conditions for the state to enact authoritarian legislation and kill people, because they know people are going to be a lot more hesitant to show up in person,” said Zoé Samudzi, 27, a writer and doctoral student in Medical Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco whose work focuses on the intersection between race and state violence.