Timeline: Social media during Black Lives Matter protests and mall looting

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The first on-street reactions of the Champaign-Urbana community on the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis were reported on local Facebook groups on May 29. Since then, citizens from both cities posted videos, opinions, and encouragements to join the protests.

CU-Citizen Access provides the timeline of how demonstrations and looting were organized and covered on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 29

The first live videos on the Facebook group Spotted in Chambana were streamed around 5 p.m. showing how several activists with Black Lives Matter signs stood up at the corner of University Avenue and the First Street right near the Champaign Police Department.

Protests in Champaign, Illinois in downtown on May 29, 2020.

Those videos inspired commentators to join that peaceful protest, and many questions on the next dates of the protests followed up. One of the afternoon protesters and administrators of Spotted in Chambana, Mindee Zimmers, replied with the event she has already organized on Facebook: “Black Lives Matter: March For Peace, March For Justice,” with the last stop at Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana. Administrators of the reminded the group members that they encourage people only for peaceful demonstrations.

Saturday, May 30

On Saturday, peaceful, uncrowded protests continued. At 9:30 p.m. John Kramer posted several live videos from the parking lot behind the News-Gazette building and KoFusion restaurant in Downtown Champaign.

Sunday, May 31

On Sunday morning the picture calling up for looting Champaign Market Place Mall at 3 p.m. was trending on the different social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Shemar Betts’s social media post was shared on multiple platforms on Sunday, May 31.

Some organizers of the peaceful Monday, June 1 protests urged fellow protesters not to pay attention to this post and stated that it has no connection with BLM branch in Champaign, Neighborhood Transformation, or any other African-American organization in the local area. Administrators of Spotted in Chambana also decided to delete all the posts “threatening violence.”

The first police reports on looting different shops (some of them are Best Buy, Old Navy, Shoe Carnival) on North Prospect Avenue appeared at around 3 p.m. Alleged looters smashed windows and glass entrances of the shops. Within half and hour, police blocked off roads to the Market Place Mall. Most of the shops in the area closed for the rest of the day. In the evening, the mayors of both Champaign and Urbana announced a curfew.

The trending post about rioting Champaign’s mall was believed to be published by Shamar Betts, a 19-year old man from Champaign. The original post itself was deleted. Some users made the screenshots of Betts’s post with the riot picture and several utterances that Betts put on his Facebook page.

However, some Facebook users insist that Betts just re-posted someone’s image. They, also, claim that the looting was organized by people who came outside of Champaign area, but a CU-CitizenAccess report shows most arrested were from Champaign-Urbana. On June 5, police arrested Betts in Tehula, Mississippi and he has been charged with inciting a riot on May 31, 2020 at the Market Place Mall.

At about 10 p.m. different users started live videos from Green Street, where looters were damaging liquor, tobacco, and other shops. Those videos were mainly posted on Snapchat. An hour before, some activists decided to hold a peaceful protest on Second Street and Green Street, mentioning afterwards that there is no connection between them and looters.

Later in the evening, some users called the community to clean the Market Place Mall at 10 p.m. on Monday, June 1.

Community members organize to clean up the mall the morning after alleged looters damaged property, including windows and doors, in the area.

Monday, June 1

On Monday, Champaign Police Department posted on Twitter that 27 people were arrested after Sunday’s criminal events. It added that local police support peaceful demonstrations.

Champaign Police Department updates the community using Twitter on the morning of June 1, 2020.

Two Facebook events were created to organize a peaceful march on June 1, 2020. The first one has the last stop in Urbana near the Champaign County Courthouse. The second was, also, started in Urbana, but led to the Champaign Police Department. Both of them intertwined and produced one significant march on Green Street.

Monday morning users shared videos from Urbana gas station, where some people were swinging bats and shouting violent phrases. Some users called them looters. 

A screenshot of a video where a man was seen carrying a baseball bat in Urbana, Illinois on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Tuesday, June 2

Members of the Neighborhood Transformation announced the Deliverance Revival Protest on June 7. They were planning to go from Target to Market Place Mall.

Wednesday, June 3

The Paign to Peace organization announced a Black Lives Matter Protest on June 6 in Hessel Park.

Champaign Police Department tweeted and shared on Facebook a post shooting down a rumor that large buses from outside cities were coming to the Champaign area to cause a disturbance and are not credible.

Thursday, June 4

No events were reported.

Friday, June 5

Champaign Police Department published a release of arresting Shamar Bett’s in Mississippi.

Saturday, June 6

The Black Lives Matter Protest by Paign to Peace was held in Hessel Park.

Sunday, June 7

The Deliverance Revival Protest by the HV Neighborhood Transformation can be viewed in part on Facebook.

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  1. Mindee Zimmers

    I want to add a couple of things here, Naomi Dupree (18) organized the protest to protect green street because we were hearing that was the looters next stop. She and the group she gathered stopped people from breaking into campus pantry that night, and FYXD was broken into literally seconds before I walked by on my way back to the car after the march on green street.

    The organizer of the second event Abbie Steele reached out to me the day before and we agreed to merge the efforts, that’s when she changed her time to coincide with our march and bring everyone together. We never played against each other, no hostility, just an honest mistake when she created the event she was unaware of ours and how it had grown.

    If anyone has any more questions or would like to get involved in future events keep in touch on Facebook @ Mindee Zimmers