Ahmaud Arbery is murdered while out jogging

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, is shot dead by a white father and son while out for a jog in a suburb of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. 

On May 7, following the release of a video of the killing that spurred national attention from the media, civil rights groups, lawmakers, celebrities and, eventually, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault. William Bray, who filmed the shooting on his phone, was also arrested and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

In June, the three men were indicted by a grand jury on all nine counts, including malice murder, four counts felony murder, two counts aggregated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Arbery, a former high school football player, reportedly jogged around the neighborhoods of Brunswick frequently, according to The New York Times. Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer and investigator for the local district attorney’s office, told police he saw Arbery running that day, and thought he looked like a suspect in a series of local break-ins. The father and son hopped in their white pickup truck, armed with a .357 Magnum and a shotgun, and pursued Arbery. Bryan also gave chase, the newspaper reports, and filmed the video that shows a struggle between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who fired three shots.

The video, released on May 5, 2020 by a lawyer for Arbery’s family, sparked outrage that no arrests had been made more than two months after the killing. The McMichaels claimed self defense and the first two prosecutors in the case recused themselves.

The shooting happened shortly before the deaths of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor by police during a failed no-knock raid in Louisville, Kentucky. All these incidents sparked widespread protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States and around the globe. 

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World Health Organization officially names novel coronavirus disease COVID-19

A few months after the first known case was detected in Wuhan, China, and approximately three weeks after the first U.S. case was reported, on February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially named the illness that would go on to cause a pandemic “coronavirus disease 2019,” shortened to the acronym COVID-19.

Often referred to as the “Wuhan virus” in its very early stages, and also “nCoV-2019,” WHO guidelines state that names for new infectious diseases may not include geographic locations, animals, individuals or groups of people and must be pronounceable. CO stands for corona, VI is for virus, D is for disease and 2019 represents the year it was first discovered.

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing announcing the name. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

Since its onset, COVID-19 rapidly spread to every continent. By February 2021, it resulted in more than 105 million global cases and 2.3 million deaths, including more than 455,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. 

Read all our pandemic coverage here

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Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates” opens in New York’s Central Park

On February 12, 2005, 7,503 orange curtains unfurl across New York City’s Central Park from thousands of gates. The art installation, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates,” will be gone by the end of the month, but it will leave a lasting impression and be remembered as one of the best-known and most beloved works of site-specific public art.

Husband-and-wife artistic duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude first conceived of the project in 1979. The city rejected their proposal in 1981, but, as the artists later stated, the arduous process of getting approval for such a massive installation on city property was itself an artistic performance. “He adds a dimension to the work, no matter what he thinks,” Christo said of the parks commissioner who first rejected “The Gates.” After years of negotiating and resistance from the denizens of the Upper West Side, construction began in 2004 and Mayor Michael Bloomberg unfurled the first curtain on the morning of February 12, 2005.

Like the couple’s previous works, which included wrapping Berlin’s Reichstag in cloth and hanging an enormous orange curtain across a Colorado mountain pass, “The Gates” was as conceptually simple as it was logistically challenging. It took over eight hundred workers to install the thousands of 16-foot-high gates, hung with cloth panels, which straddled 23 miles of Central Park’s pathways and transformed the park into a unique, ephemeral work of art.

Despite initial complaints from prominent locals like late-night host David Letterman, tourists flocked to see “The Gates” and most in the art world considered it an unmitigated success. “In the winter light, the bright fabric seemed to warm the fields, flickering like a flame against the barren trees,” wrote the New York Times. “Even at first blush, it was clear that ‘The Gates’ is a work of pure joy, a vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence, the first great public art event of the 21st century.”

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First confirmed case of COVID-19 found in U.S.

Following a rapid spread from its origin in Wuhan, China, the first U.S. case of the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, is confirmed in a man from Washington state. 

The virus, which would spark a pandemic, was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. Halfway across the world, on January 19, a man who had returned home to Snohomish County, Washington near Seattle on January 15, after traveling to Wuhan, checked into an urgent care clinic after seeing reports about the outbreak.

Experiencing a cough, fever, nausea and vomiting, the Centers for Disease Control announced on January 21 that the 35-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized, where his condition grew worse and he developed pneumonia. His symptoms abated 10 days later.

In the following months, the Seattle area became the epicenter of an early U.S. outbreak. 39 residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, died from complications from the virus in one four-week span.

According to the CDC, 14 U.S. coronavirus cases were noted by public health agencies between January 21 and February 23, 2020; all patients had traveled to China. The first non-travel case was confirmed in California on February 26, and the first U.S. death was reported on February 29.

As the virus quickly marched across the country, businesses, schools and social gatherings were largely shut down, while, by May, unemployment rates reached their highest levels since the Great Depression.

Spreading to almost every country, more than 83 million have contracted the virus worldwide, and 1.8 million have died from it. The first U.S. vaccinations for COVID-19 were administered on December 14, 2020, with the rollout falling well short of expectations. As of mid-January 2021, 24.1 million cases and 400,000 deaths had been reported in the United States alone. 

READ MORE: Pandemics That Changed History 

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Basketball star Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying former pro basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others crashes in Calabasas, California, roughly 30 miles north of Los Angeles; everyone onboard dies. Bryant’s death sent shockwaves through the American sporting world.

Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 until 2016, winning five NBA Championships and the 2008 Most Valuable Player award while making the All-Star team in 15 of his 20 seasons. By his mid-career, Bryant had established himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history, known for his clutch shooting, capable defending, work ethic, and longevity. He was accused of sexual assault in 2003, a charge which he settled out of court—the episode cost him some of his most lucrative sponsorship deals, but he retained his status as one of the wealthiest and most beloved American athletes. In addition to his long playing career, Bryant was known for his philanthropy and several business ventures and film projects (he wrote the 2017 short film Dear Basketball, which won an Academy Award).

Bryant and his daughter, along with the other passengers, were headed to Gianna’s basketball game at the his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. Not long after takeoff, the helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. The accident shocked sports fans across America and around the world. Bryant had been set to host the Grammy Awards that very evening, and the ceremony became one of the first of countless tributes to him and his daughter. The Los Angeles Airport, the Empire State Building and the Burj Khalifa were all lit in purple and yellow, the Lakers’ colors, in tribute to Bryant. Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s longtime teammate, sometime rival, and another of the era’s greatest players, said he had “no words to express the pain” he felt at Bryant’s death, and fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan called Bryant “one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”

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First issue of “Vogue” is published

On December 17, 1892, Arthur Baldwin Turnure first publishes a new magazine, dedicated to “the ceremonial side of life” and targeted at “the sage as well as the debutante, men of affairs as well as the belle.” A product of the Gilded Age, Vogue has chronicled and influenced high society, fashion and culture ever since.

By the late 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the corporation had bestowed previously unimaginable levels of wealth upon a tiny but high-profile fraction of American society. Families like the Vanderbilts and Astors had the time and the means to build opulent homes, throw glamorous parties, and purchase the finest clothing. As such, their social activities became subjects of great interest for their peers as well as the less-wealthy but aspirational middle classes. Seeing “endless opportunities for running comment and occasional rebuke,” Turnure decided to create a magazine dedicated to this lifestyle, calling it “a magnetic wielding force.” The first issue featured a black-and-white drawing of a debutante on its cover, and early issues of Vogue extensively chronicled “the 400,” a set of elite socialites named for the alleged capacity of the Astors’ ballroom.

Publisher Condé Nast purchased Vogue in 1905, changing it to focus almost entirely on women and fashion and creating the first of its international editions (there are now over 20). The magazine has remained popular and relevant ever since, regularly featuring the work of world-famous models, photographers and writers.

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“House of Cards,” Netflix’s first original series, starts streaming

By 2013, Netflix had already fundamentally changed the way Americans consumed movies and television. The service offered unlimited DVD rentals—and, starting in 2007, direct streaming of many of its titles—for a flat monthly fee, a wildly popular model that almost single-handedly drove Blockbuster and other video rental stores out of business. In February of 2013, Netflix introduced House of Cards, the first major TV show that ran exclusively on a streaming service. It was another Netflix innovation that would alter the media landscape.

Director and producer David Fincher began developing an American version of the British political drama House of Cards in 2011. Cable and premium channels like HBO and AMC, which had experience with “prestige TV” programming, were in talks to pick up the show, but Netflix outbid them, hoping to begin its foray into original content with a bang. Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey was announced in the lead role the same year, and buzz built around the show.

House of Cards’ first season was released all at once rather than episode-by-episode, another first. The show was a hit, garnering nine Emmy nominations, a first for a streaming-only program. House of Cards ran for five more seasons and received a total of seven Emmys and 56 nominations, ending with a final season that focused on Spacey’s character’s wife, played by Robin Wright, after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey became public.

Netflix had another major hit with Orange is the New Black, which premiered a few months later, and its original shows have numbered among the most popular in the country ever since. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and other streaming services have made a concerted effort to produce original content in the years since House of Cards debuted, and 60 percent of Americans now subscribe to at least one streaming service. In 2018, Icarus became the first Netflix production to win an Oscar, taking home the award for Best Documentary Feature, and the following year Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma won three Academy Awards.

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Proposition 187 is approved in California

Year
1994
Month Day
November 08

On November 8, 1994, 59 percent of California voters approve Proposition 187, banning undocumented immigrants from using the state’s major public services. Despite its wide margin of victory, the ballot measure never takes effect.

In 1994, California, the home of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, was not yet the Democratic stronghold many now consider it to be. A popular destination for immigrants from both Latin America and Asia, its demographics changed dramatically in the second half of the century, but neither Republicans nor Democrats won a decisive share of these newcomers’ votes. That would change after a group of Republican activists and state-level legislators, responding to the state’s economic slump and the presence of over a million undocumented immigrants, decided to launch the campaign for what became Prop 187. In the name of saving taxpayer money, the proposition prohibited the undocumented from accessing basic public services such as non-emergency health care and both primary and secondary education. It also required public servants like medical professionals and teachers to monitor and report on the immigration status of those under their charge.

Although public support was high from the start, the threat of barring over a million California residents from basic public services stirred up vocal opposition. As Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s campaign used the threat of immigration in an attempt to scare voters, 70,000 people marched against 187 in downtown Los Angeles, and 10,000 public school students walked out of class on November 2, just days before the vote. The measure’s passage on November 8 was an entirely symbolic and short-lived victory for conservatives.

Within a week, a legal challenge had prevented the new law from taking effect—it was held up in the appeals process until 1999, when a Democratic governor dropped the state’s appeal. Studies have since shown that Proposition 187 played a key role in galvanizing immigrants’ rights activists and pushing Latinx and Asian voters away from the California Republican Party. Over the next decade, 66 percent of newly-registered California voters were Latinx and another 23 percent were Asian. In the same period, Republicans went from holding roughly half of elected offices in the state to less than a quarter. California has since formally repealed Prop 187 and enacted some of the United States’ most sweeping protections for the undocumented.

READ MORE: US Immigration Timeline

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Off-duty police officer mistakenly enters neighbor’s apartment and shoots its owner to death

Year
2018
Month Day
September 06

On September 6, 2018 an off-duty Dallas police officer fatally shoots an unarmed Black man in the victim’s own apartment. 

Returning to her apartment complex in Dallas, Texas, police officer Amber Guyger entered the apartment of Botham Jean, believing it to be her own. The apartment door was ajar, she later testified, and when she entered she found a man inside. She fired her weapon, killing him.

Guyger was not arrested until three days later and was originally charged with manslaughter, rousing the anger of the public. She was eventually charged with murder. 

Guyger claimed that exhaustion after a 13-hour shift caused her to mistakenly climb an extra flight of stairs and enter the wrong apartment, where she became frightened when she saw the silhouette of what she believed to be a burglar in what she believed to be her home. She also claimed that told him to raise his hands and that he began to move toward her before she shot him in the chest. 

Prosecutors, however, argued that Guyger could hardly have confused a different door with a different doormat on a different level of the complex for her own, that Jean’s behavior—he was sitting on the couch eating ice cream—bore no resemblance to that of a burglar, and that Guyger broke police protocol by entering the apartment and firing her gun rather than calling for backup from the nearby police station.

Despite the judge’s decision to allow the jury to consider the “castle doctrine,” a Texas statute that justifies deadly force in defense of one’s home, the jury found Guyger guilty of murder, a charge she appealed. Guyger was the first Dallas police officer to be convicted of murder since 1973. 

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Thousands of Mexican-American antiwar activists march in Chicano Moratorium

Year
1970
Month Day
August 29

On August 29, 1970, more than 20,000 Mexican-Americans march through East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War. The Chicano Moratorium, as this massive protest was known, was peaceful until the Los Angeles Police entered Laguna Park, sparking violence and rioting that led to three deaths. The Chicano Moratorium is now remembered both as the tragic end of one stage of Chicano activism and as a moment that galvanized and inspired a new generation of activists.

READ MORE: The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America

The march was planned as an entirely peaceful demonstration in support of peace and in protest of the Vietnam War, which claimed Latino lives at a disproportionately high rate. As demonstrators assembled in the park, the owner of a nearby liquor store called the police on some Chicano customers in the fear that they might begin shoplifting. When the LAPD responded, it assumed the protest had led to looting, and before long the police were storming the park with tear gas. Three people died and hundreds were arrested as riots spread throughout East LA. 

Among the dead was Ruben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist often referred to as the voice of the local Chicano community; he was hit on the head with an LAPD tear gas canister. Salazar’s death, in particular, sparked outrage, and many believe that the police or the FBI, whose agents were present for the march, used the chaos as cover for the assassination of a prominent voice of dissent.

Many viewed the violence and Salazar’s death as a loss of innocence for the Chicano movement. For many, however, it was the beginning of a lifetime of activism and a moment that would forever encapsulate the community’s struggle for racial equality. Many prominent Chicano artists, activists and politicians were present at the rally. The former Laguna Park is now called Ruben F. Salazar Park.

READ MORE: Vietnam War Protests 

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