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Killings, protests and #blacklivesmatter: A look back at a terrible week as seen on social media

Social media has changed the way we see the world.

Protesters in Baton Rouge on Saturday July 9.
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

What a terrible week.

Black men were shot and killed by police officers in two separate states. Police officers in Dallas were shot and killed during a #blacklivesmatter protest. And video of almost all of it — real, live, graphic video — was captured and distributed like wildfire via the world’s largest social networks, Facebook and Twitter.

This is not the first time bad news or graphic images have made the rounds on social media. But this week felt different, in part because two of the three instances mentioned above were not just shared to Facebook, they were broadcast live on Facebook. This wasn’t even possible a year ago.

The availability of live video broadcasting means that anyone with a smartphone — virtually anyone, period — can not only record something, but also bring the world into a moment as it’s happening. We are no longer just passive viewers of things that have already happened; we are becoming witnesses to things that are happening this very instant.

Here’s a look at how this week unfolded on social media. Warning: Some of these videos are graphic and disturbing.

Tuesday, July 5

Alton Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge, La., was shot by police while he was on his back during a scuffle outside of a convenience store. This video of the incident, which is graphic and tough to watch, started making the rounds quickly on social media, as did the hashtag #AltonSterling. The conversation around police brutality and use of excessive force, which never really seems to go away, was once again ignited across the country.

Wednesday, July 6

The very next day, during what appeared to be an otherwise routine traffic stop, a police officer in Minnesota shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man who was still wearing his seat belt and reaching for his wallet. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, started broadcasting live to Facebook from her phone shortly after the shooting. The video shows Castile’s last moments of consciousness, and despite its very graphic nature, has been viewed more than 5.5 million times.

“I wanted everyone in the world to know how much [the police] tamper with evidence and how much they manipulate our minds,” Reynolds would later say. “I wanted it to go viral so that people could determine themselves as to what was right and what was wrong.”

Thursday, July 7

These two shootings sparked protests around the country. At a #blacklivesmatter protest in Dallas on Thursday evening, an armed sniper started shooting at Dallas police officers, resulting in a firefight. Video of the shootout was broadcast live to Facebook by a bystander. Five Dallas police officers were killed.

Friday, July 8 & Saturday, July 9

Protests continued. In Los Angeles, rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game participated in a protest outside LAPD headquarters. They were unexpectedly brought inside for a meeting with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who later addressed the press along with both rappers.

Operation H.U.N.T Meet NOW at Joe's auto park parking 1221 west 3rd street Los Angeles California 90017 Calling: ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN, MEXICAN AMERICAN MEN & any other RACE of REAL MEN with heart to stand with us today & walk peacefully to the LAPD headquarters. [LEAVE ALL WOMEN & CHILDREN AT HOME... THIS IS OUR MISSION FOR THEM] Do not: bring any weapons or anything illegal. Do not come high or belligerent.. We don't need any HOT HEADS or anyone there for the wrong reasons... We will stand as we are, UNIFIED. I'm calling ALL GANGS, ALL RACES, ALL GROWN MEN affiliated or not & WE WILL STAND UNIFIED tomorrow !!!! Our numbers are all the weapons we need !!! We do not need to be dumb, retarded or uncivilized today... ALL WE NEED IS EACH OTHER... I will not lead any of you into a trap !!!!! Objective: to make the Californian government & it's law branches aware that from today forward, we will be UNIFIED as minorities & we will no longer allow them to hunt us or be hunted by us !!! Let's erase the fear of one another on both sides & start something new here in the city of Los Angeles, a city we all love & share ! There are many things that have to be done to rectify this situation that has plagued us for hundreds of years & UNIFICATION is the 1st step !!! Again, I'm asking for ALL of my AFRICAN AMERICAN, MEXICAN AMERICAN & any other AMERICAN who has the heart to STAND WITH US to meet us at the above address & take the 1st step into altering our future for our children & our FAMILIES....I LOVE EVERY ONE OF YOU & WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES & OUR FAMILIES TO BE MEN & TAKE A STAND MY BROTHERS.. THE TIME IS NOW - The Game @derekdidit

A photo posted by The Game (@losangelesconfidential) on

More protests took place across the country, including in New York, Miami, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Some of these protests, like the ones in Atlanta and Oakland, shut down entire freeways.

Late Saturday night, well-known #blacklivesmatter activist DeRay Mckesson, who spoke about social media activism onstage at Code Conference in June, was arrested while protesting in Baton Rouge, La. The hashtag #FreeDeray started trending on Twitter.

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