Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jul 26: John Lewis’ remains are carried across the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama. Unrest spreads over the crackdown by militarized federal agents in Portland, Oregon.

From the Cutting Room Floor...

The nation may have been watching Portland, Oregon, closely. But other cities’ police have also been targeting Black Lives Matter protestors. Instead of meeting them with force, and receiving national attention and more protests, these departments have been picking off protestors one by one and using trumped-up charges to intimidate them. Given the circumstances of these citations—people charged for actions in a different city on a different day—it’s reasonable to assume these police departments are using facial recognition or some other identifying software, despite the fact these are often in error.[1]



[1] Timothy B. Lee, “Detroit Police Chief Cops to 96-Percent Facial Recognition Error Rate,” Ars Technica, June 30, 2020,

Contributors' Voices

On Saturday, July 25th I attended and participated in a Black Lives Matter march in [suburb of large midwestern city]…. The [suburban] Police Departments were helping to facilitate the march by blocking the streets and myself and a few other people were also on bikes to help marshal the march and keep the demonstrators safe by blocking side streets and clearing intersections. The march concluded around 1:15pm without any incidents or run-ins with police.

Around 1:30pm I left from the demonstration site with two other people—all three of us were on bikes. One of the bikers was heading to their home … the other was going to another demonstration … and I was going home …. We were aware at the time that other bikes that have assisted with marshaling for demonstrations had been targeted by police, so we were careful to follow all traffic laws, including stopping at all stop signs and intersections and signaling for turns or lane changes. Because we are skilled bike riders, we are able to come to a stop on our bikes without putting our feet down—we can just balance on the bike.

…our one friend turned off right to head home. The two of us continued east …. Just before we got to 18th, we heard a police siren behind us and we were pulled over by a [city—not the suburb where the march took place] Police Department SUV.… The officer was a middle-aged white man who was not wearing a mask but got within 6 feet of us despite the pandemic and did not offer to put a mask on. Both myself and my friend were wearing masks for the entire interaction. The officer informed us that he had seen us “roll through” multiple intersections without coming to a complete stop. I calmly objected to this characterization and told the officer that we were very intentional about following the law and allowing cars to go first that reached a 4 way stop before us and I explained that we had come to a complete stop while still balancing on our bikes.

The officer asked for our identification and neither of us had our IDs on us. The officer pulled out a pad of paper and asked for my information first. I asked if I was being detained and he said “Yes, this is a traffic stop.” I was unsure how to respond and I didn’t want to be detained so I gave my information— name, date of birth, current address, and social security number. Before I gave my social security number, I asked why he needed it and he told me it would help him look me up more quickly. The officer then took the same information from my friend.…

I would say the officer was overly friendly with us throughout the entire interaction and trying to be buddy-buddy with us. He told us that he would not be giving us a citation but wanted to warn us that we need to come to a full and complete stop. The officer said he was a bicyclist and a motorcyclist and understood how tempting it could be to roll through intersections. I again told the officer that we had not rolled through intersections and re-explained that we were able to stop while balancing on our bikes. I asked the officer how we could avoid being pulled over again and whether coming to a full and complete stop meant that our feet needed to come off of our pedals onto the ground. The officer did not give a direct answer but just repeated that we needed to come to a full and complete stop.

At one point the officer very flippantly made a comment about how if it was 3am and we rolled through an intersection with no one around then who cares. … At this point I told him that I had previously gotten pulled over for ‘rolling through’ a stop sign on my bike at a very late hour with no one around … by a police car that was in a parking lot [and too far away to see the infraction]. The officer looked surprised by this and said he didn’t know about this and hadn’t looked up our whole record—leading me to believe that they pulled us over and took down our information for some reason other than a traffic citation.

[Later] friends related to us that this police interaction sounds just like what had happened earlier this week to a different friend of ours who had been ticketed for riding his bike on a sidewalk (where had had been standing with this bike, not riding). Then after that citation he discovered that retroactive warrants had been put out for him, which were served to his parents’ house—M1 Intent to Riot, M2 Obstruction of Official Business, and M4 Blocking Traffic. This friend has been active in the same capacity we have in Black Lives Matter demonstrations….

Last week another biker … was rolled up on by 2 cop cruisers while standing on the sidewalk with his bike at a demonstration. The cops asked for his ID (which lists his parents’ address) and ticketed him for riding his bike on the sidewalk even though he had not been riding on the sidewalk and was just standing there at a demonstration. Multiple other bikers were in the near vicinity and witnessed this. No other bikers were cited. Weird, right?

Two days after this baffling ticketing, his parents received a knock on the door and were served with three outstanding warrants on him: M1 Riot, M2 Criminal Damaging/Endangering, and M4 Obstructing City Right of way. These bullshit citations are so they can get our information. Cops might start targeting other bikers now. So we have been very carefully following all street laws when we’re just biking around town.

Now we wait to see if I get retroactively charged.


—Name and location withheld

Velasco, Eric. “John Lewis Makes Final Journey across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.” Washington Post, July 26, 2020.

“Hurricane Hanna makes landfall in Texas” ABC News, July 25, 2020,

“Rep. John Lewis’s casket crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery (FULL LIVE STREAM)” Washington Post, July 26, 2020,


*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

Graham, Bryan Armen. “Tom Cotton Calls Slavery ‘Necessary Evil’ in Attack on New York Times’ 1619 Project.” The Guardian, July 26, 2020.
Lockwood, Frank E. “Bill by Sen. Tom Cotton Targets Curriculum on Slavery.” Arkansas Online, July 26, 2020.
Jackson, Lagipoiva Cherelle. “Pacific Islanders in US Hospitalised with Covid-19 at up to 10 Times the Rate of Other Groups.” The Guardian, July 26, 2020,
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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.