Originally published on Colorlines and republished here with their permission.
We’ve always protested, but in 2014 police beatings and killings of black men, women, and children – often caught on camera – finally became big mainstream news.
Recently, this persistent form of violence has sparked intense organizing and huge demonstrations that are often youth-led and multiracial.
And the marches and die-ins, teach-ins and boycotts, hashtags and banners have definitely made an impact. Even Obama’s White House got involved.
Here are 19 people and moments of 2014 that we will never forget:
1. Police Officer Darren Wilson Kills Michael Brown
In August, after stopping unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown for walking in the street in his Ferguson, Mo., neighborhood,white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him.
The killing – and the four hours Brown’s dead body lay in the street – sparked large local protests and some vandalism. The mostly peaceful demonstrations only grew and spread after a grand jury failed to indict Wilson for Brown’s death in November. (Scott Olsen/Getty)
2. Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo Kills Eric Garner
In July, in Staten Island, N.Y., white cop Daniel Pantaleo put black, unarmed father Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold after accusing him of selling loose cigarettes. Garner’s choking – which a bystander caught on video–sparked protests that culminated in large-scale demonstrations after a grand jury failed to indict Pantaleo in December. (Yana Pascova/Getty)
3. People March, Block Highways, and Stage Die-Ins – In the Face of Militarization
Ferguson residents staged mostly peaceful marches in response to Michael Brown’s killing in August. Local and state authorities responded with a militarized use of force, using tanks, tear gas and flash grenades on protestors. People around the country, and eventually around the world, held demonstrations that included die-ins and the shut-down of major highways. (Scott Olsen/Getty)
4. #BlackLivesMatter Becomes a Unifying Call
Activists Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza first created #BlackLivesMatter after white vigilante George Zimmerman was acquitted for killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013. In 2014 #BlackLivesMatter became the unifying call.
Over Labor Day weekend, hundreds of activists from around the U.S. and Canada took bus rides to Ferguson as part of this movement. The hashtag has appeared on Twitter, flyers, T-shirts, and banners.
5. #BlackoutBlackFriday and #NotOneDime Campaigns Push Boycotts
#NotOneDime, created by Rahiel Tesfamariam, and #BlackOutFriday, created by Blackout for Human Rights, urged shoppers to boycott sales on the start of the holiday shopping season in protest of the extrajudicial killings of black people. Black Friday – named for an enduring convention that marks a net income in black and a net loss in red on accounting ledgers – proved to be down this year. But was that due to the boycott? No one’s really sure, since the trade association that tracks holiday shopping didn’t track the boycott. (Joshua Lott/Getty)
6. Top Athletes Honor Michael Brown and Eric Garner
In late August, former basketball player Len Elmore urged black athletes to speak out against police brutality following the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown–although some had already done so. By December, numerous star athletes began wearing T-shirts that read, “I can’t breathe,” which were Eric Garner’s last words. (Al Bello/Getty)
7. St. Louis Cardinals Fans Clash with Protestors
During some of this fall’s baseball playoff games, fans were cheering Darren Wilson as much as they were cheering the Cardinals. White fans even hurled insults like, “We’re the ones who fucking gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” at black protestors. (Scott Olsen/Getty)
8. Highway Patrol Officer Daniel L. Andrew Beats Marlene Pinnock
Black 51-year-old grandmother Marlene Pinnock (above, left) was severely beaten by Daniel L. Andrew, a white California highway patrolman, on the side of a Los Angeles freeway in July. Andrew had stopped Pinnock after multiple drivers called 911 about her walking barefoot on the side of the road; a passerby caught the assault on video. Andrew later resigned and Pinnock agreed to a $1.5 million in-trust settlement. Andrew was never charged for the beating. (John Hopper/AP Photo)
9. Civilian Theodore Wafer Is Convicted of Murdering Renisha McBride
In August, white Dearborn Heights, Mich., homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of the November 2013 second-degree murder of black 19-year-old Renisha McBride. Wafer was sentenced to 17 to 32 years in prison for shooting McBride through his unopened screen door. The teen, who was reportedly intoxicated and had crashed her car earlier, had been knocking on Wafer’s door for help at 3:40. a.m. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)
10. Civilian Michael Dunn Is Convicted of Murdering Jordan Davis
White motorist Michael Dunn shot and killed black 17-year-old Jordan Davis in November 2013 as he sat in an SUV with friends at a Jacksonville, Fla. gas station. A jury was first unable to conclude whether Dunn – who shot at the vehicle after complaining about the music playing in it and also wrote racist letters from jail – was guilty of murder. But in a retrial, Dunn was found guilty of first-degree murder in October. He is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. (Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
11. Police Officers Frank Garmack and Timothy Loehmann Kill Tamir Rice
In November, Tamir Rice – a black 12-year-old – was gunned down by white officers Frank Garmack and Timothy Loehmann while he was playing with a pellet gun in an empty area of a Cleveland, Ohio, park. A 911 caller had said that Rice was waving a gun that was probably fake but the dispatcher didn’t relay that information to police. Rice’s family had to demand that video from the killing be made publicly available. It was later learned that a supervisor on another police force had deemed Loehmann unfit for duty in late 2012, and that no amount of “time, nor training, will be able to change or correct” his deficiencies. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)
12. Policemen Nicholas Judson and Matthew Schauerhamer Kill Darrien Hunt
In another killing caught on camera in Sarasota Springs, Utah, police corporal Matthew Schauerhamer and officer Nicholas Judson chased Darrien Hunt, a black 22-year old who was dressed in a Samurai costume – probably as the Samurai Champloo anime character – and carrying a decorative sword. The officers, both white, claimed Hunt attacked them after they tried to take the sword, but an autopsy indicated that he was fatally shot four to six times in the back. Neither Schauerhamer nor Judson will face charges. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)
13. Police Officers Sean Williams and David Darkow Kill John Crawford, III
An August surveillance video at a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart captured white police officers Sean Williams and David Darkow shooting John Crawford III. Someone had called 911 claiming the black 22-year-old shopper was brandishing a gun. Crawford was holding an air rifle that was for sale at the superstore in Ohio, which is an open-carry state. Just as in other cases this year, neither officer was indicted. (Saul Loeb/Getty)
14. Marissa Alexander Agrees to a Plea Deal
Jacksonville, Fla., mother of three Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after she stopped her husband–a serial abuser–from a jealousy-fueled assault by firing a warning shot. Neither her husband, Rico Gray, nor two of his children who were present, were injured. Alexander, who had given birth nine days before Gray’s assault, was able to get an order for a retrial on appeal but she decided to work out a plea deal in November to serve three years instead. If convicted in a retrial, Alexander would have been sentenced to a mandatory 60 years. The plea – which counts the time she had already served – assures she’ll be out by the end of January. (Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union/Pool/Reuters)
15. CeCe McDonald Is Released from Prison
Black transwoman CeCe McDonald was released in January after serving 19 months of a 41-month sentence for defending herself against a transphobic and racist attack in 2012. McDonald, who was made to serve her time in a men’s prison, has made multiple media appearances since her release. (Leslie Feinberg)
16. The Central Park Five Get a Major Settlement
The five black and Latino men who as teenagers were wrongfully convicted in the 1989 gang rape of a white woman jogger in New York City’s Central Park, settled with the city for $41 million. The mind-numbing, coercive process police used in their interrogations was revealed in a PBS documentary. (Andrew Burton/Getty)
17. Compton School Police Are Armed with Assault Rifles
The militarization of police wasn’t limited to protests in Ferguson in 2014. In Compton, Calif., students were welcomed back to school this year by police armed with semi-automatic assault rifles. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty)
18. Stop-and-Frisk Reforms Take Place in New York City
In August 2013, after a federal judge ruled that New York City’s police stop-and-frisk policy disproportionately targeted people of color, Mayor Bill de Blasio, inaugurated into office in 2014, agreed to drop appeals to the case. Since then, the practice of stop-and-frisk continues, but is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Nevertheless, early figures show that the limited practice continues to target blacks and Latinos. (Andrew Burton/Getty)
19. President Barack Obama Establishes Police Task Force
On December 1, Obama convened a meeting with grassroots activists, politicians and legacy civil rights leaders to talk about reforming policing in the U.S. Obama announced that he would establish a police accountability task force, seek ways to demilitarize the police, fund body cameras for officers and, through attorney general Eric Holder, convene a series of community meetings. Not everybody’s buying it, though. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Aura Bogado is Colorlines’ news editor and reporter, covering a range of issues including Native American communities, immigration and community organizing. She has reported in Spanish and English from Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and the United States. Her work has been published in Mother Jones, Newsweek Argentina, AlterNet, and The Huffington Post. With the support of the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, she conducted an in-depth examination on the consequences of immigration enforcement by local police in Arizona. Follow Aura Bogado on Twitter: @AuraBogado
Search our 3000+ articles!
Our online racial justice training
Used by hundreds of universities, non-profits, and businesses.
Click to learn more