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Photos show how the Black Lives Matter protests compare to civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s

Photos show how the Black Lives Matter protests compare to civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s
  • Protests have erupted across the United States in response to the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck even as Floyd told him that he couldn't breathe.
  • The Black Lives Matter demonstrations are similar to those that took place in the 1960s during the civil rights movement.
  • Photos comparing protests from the 1960s and from 2020 show that demonstrators have used similar strategies and have been met with similar force from the police.
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A group of protesters confronted the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020.

A group of protesters confronted the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020.
People face off with police near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct. Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Protests began in Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 26, following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck as Floyd begged the officer to stop and told him he couldn't breathe.

Protesters in Minneapolis were seen standing unarmed across from a group of officers, who held batons and hid behind face shields.

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The scene is not dissimilar to this shot of protestors facing the National Guard in 1968.

The scene is not dissimilar to this shot of protestors facing the National Guard in 1968.
Protesters face off with the National Guard on Beale Street on March 29, 1968. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

In 1968, strikers and supporters gathered to protest the horrible working conditions and treatment of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. The sanitation workers' strike is actually what brought Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, where he was assassinated on April 4.

Sanitation workers marched on Memphis' Beale Street in the photo, wearing identical signs that say "I Am A Man," highlighting the inhumanity with which they were treated by the state.

The National Guard was deployed to try to contain the protests.

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In 2020, protesters demonstrated peacefully on a road in West Hollywood by sitting with signs.

In 2020, protesters demonstrated peacefully on a road in West Hollywood by sitting with signs.
Black Lives Matter protesters sit at an intersection in West Hollywood on May 30, 2020. Warrick Page/Getty Images

Protests spread to California on the Wednesday following Floyd's death. They marched all over the city, even briefly taking over the LA highway.

In this photo, three protesters sat in the middle of an intersection, with a larger group of demonstrators behind them. The woman in the middle held a sign that says "We can't breathe."

Protesters across the country have chanted "I can't breathe," the final words uttered by both Floyd and Eric Garner, who died after he was held in a choke hold by a New York City police officer in 2014.

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In 1963, leaders of the civil rights movement marched with signs in Washington, DC.

In 1963, leaders of the civil rights movement marched with signs in Washington, DC.
Civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., surrounded by crowds carrying signs, Washington, DC, 1963. Library of Congress

In 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators gathered in DC for the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Ahead of the gathering at the Lincoln Memorial, dozens of protesters marched through the city, carrying signs that called for civil rights legislation and jobs for black Americans.

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A man raised his fist as he looked at the White House during a protest for George Floyd on May 31, 2020.

A man raised his fist as he looked at the White House during a protest for George Floyd on May 31, 2020.
A man holds up his fist during a protest near the White House on May 31, 2020, in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Protests across Washington, DC, escalated and became violent on Sunday night, with the White House going dark as protesters gathered in front of it and set fires nearby.

The man in this photo faced the White House, looking toward the police force standing in front of the building with his hand raised in a fist, the symbol of the Black Power movement.

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A group of students raised their hands in the Black Power salute at a protest in 1969.

A group of students raised their hands in the Black Power salute at a protest in 1969.
A group of students protested on May 22, 1969. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

In 1969, around 500 students from Central State University protested the school's limit on the number of out-of-state students admitted to the college. The demonstrators gathered at the Ohio State House.

Almost every member of the large group raised their hands in protest.

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Police officers advanced toward protesters in Washington, DC, in 2020.

Police officers advanced toward protesters in Washington, DC, in 2020.
Police charge forward during a protest outside the White House over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in Washington, DC, on May 31, 2020. SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images

The protests in DC became violent on Sunday, with activists setting fires around the White House, looting stores downtown, and vandalizing monuments.

Police officers dressed in face coverings and armed with shields launched tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters.

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Officers blocked a group of protesters from marching in Selma in 1965.

Officers blocked a group of protesters from marching in Selma in 1965.
Protesters face a blockade of police on March 9, 1965, in Selma, Alabama. Frank Dandridge / Contributor / Getty Images

In 1965, protesters marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand equal voting rights. The march turned violent on Sunday, March 7, otherwise known as "Bloody Sunday," when demonstrators were met by the authorities on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, who attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas.

This photo was taken just before the violence started, as a mass of police officers formed a barricade to block the demonstrators from continuing on their march.

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Police officers held a protester down as they arrested him in 2020.

Police officers held a protester down as they arrested him in 2020.
Police officers arrest a protester on May 31, 2020, in Philadelphia. Mark Makela / Stringer / Getty Images

Philadelphia is one of many cities currently dealing with violence and looting, with some stores choosing not to open because of the protests.

In this photo, two Philadelphia police officers apprehended a protester. One officer held him down to the ground, while the other stands over them.

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A protester was similarly held by police in 1968.

A protester was similarly held by police in 1968.
A protester was arrested at a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court on May 29, 1968. Wally McNamee / Contributor / Getty Images

In 1968, protesters gathered at the Supreme Court as part of the Poor People's Campaign, an effort organized by Martin Luther King Jr. to spotlight black people suffering from poverty throughout the United States. At the demonstration shown in the photo, four police officers arrested a protester, holding him from behind with batons in hand.

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A demonstrator waves an American flag at a protest following the death of George Floyd.

A demonstrator waves an American flag at a protest following the death of George Floyd.
A protester holds an American flag in St. Louis, Missouri, on May 29, 2020. Michael B. Thomas / Stringer / Getty Images

The protests have spread to St. Louis, where the downtown area and highways have been shut down by large groups of demonstrators.

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Activists held American flags as they protested voting laws in Alabama in 1965.

Activists held American flags as they protested voting laws in Alabama in 1965.
A group held American flags as they protested in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 25, 1965. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

At the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery, protesters gathered at the Alabama State Capitol, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "Our God is Marching On" speech, which marked a turning point in the civil rights movement.

"How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow. How long? Not long," King said in his speech.

He continued: "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

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A police officer points his baton after knocking down a protester near the White House in Washington, DC.

A police officer points his baton after knocking down a protester near the White House in Washington, DC.
A police officer knocked a protester to the ground on May 31, 2020, in Washington, DC. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / Contributor / Getty Images

Police officers' use of force increased as the protests in DC became more violent on Sunday. For instance, in this shot, a protester struggles on the ground as an officer points at him using his baton.

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Police officers responded to a riot in 1964 with excessive force, including the use of batons.

Police officers responded to a riot in 1964 with excessive force, including the use of batons.
A riot broke out in Harlem in 1964 after a police officer killed a 15-year-old. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Riots broke out in Harlem, New York, in 1964 when a white, off-duty police officer shot and killed a 15-year-old black student, as NPR reported. The protests quickly turned violent, as this photo shows. A police officer strikes at a protester, as the man raises his hands to protect himself against the baton.

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Protesters watched a liquor store burn amid riots in 2020.

Protesters watched a liquor store burn amid riots in 2020.
Protesters gather around a liquor store in flames near the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters started setting fires to buildings in Minneapolis on the Thursday following George Floyd's death, with the police meanwhile escalating the violent demonstrations across the city with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

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In 1968, protesters set fire to a building in Harlem.

In 1968, protesters set fire to a building in Harlem.
Protesters set fire to a building in Harlem following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 5, 1968. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Riots broke out across the United States after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, with his supporters taking to the streets to protest his murder, according to History. This photo shows a building burning in Harlem during the riots in 1968.

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Protesters use "I can't breathe" as a rallying cry in 2020.

Protesters use "I can't breathe" as a rallying cry in 2020.
Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Before the protests in Minneapolis escalated — with a truck driving through a crowd of protesters on the highway on Sunday — they were largely peaceful.

For instance, a photographer captured two protesters calmly standing on a raised surface, setting them apart from the countless people surrounding them.

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"Black Power" was a popular phrase for civil rights activists in the 1960s.

"Black Power" was a popular phrase for civil rights activists in the 1960s.
The national director of the Congress of Racial Equality joins a protest in Harlem on July 22, 1966. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

The 1966 national director of the Congress of Racial Equality is at the forefront of this shot, standing alongside protesters calling for voting equality.

In the 1960s, the Black Power movement was about encouraging black Americans to create cultural, political, and economic power of their own rather than settle for integration into a white-dominated society, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Protesters marched on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2020.

Protesters marched on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2020.
Protesters march across the Brooklyn Bridge on May 29, 2020. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

The protests in New York also escalated over the weekend, with police cars ramming into protesters and officers using pepper spray on demonstrators.

Protesters also started marching along the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn as demonstrations popped up all over the city.

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Activists previously marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1964.

Activists previously marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1964.
Protesters boycott school segregation by marching across the Brooklyn Bridge on March 16, 1964. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

To protest school segregation, activists marched to Brooklyn from Manhattan in 1964, with many students joining protests over the course of that spring to call for education equality, according to The New York Times.

Much like their 2020 counterparts, the protesters carried signs and faced the police. The familiar sight of the Manhattan skyline in the background drives home the similarity between the struggles black people faced during the civil rights movement and the issues they face today.

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