On June 1, 2020, a photograph supposedly showing a police officer in riot gear aiming a rubber bullet gun near a child sitting on a protester’s shoulder was widely shared on social media:
This is a genuine photograph.
As this image circulated online, many people seemed curious about the circumstances surrounding this scene, prompting a variety of questions. Where was this taken? Was the officer really aiming a rubber bullet gun at a little boy? Who brings a toddler to a “riot”?
This photo was captured by freelance photographer Richard Grant during a protest in Long Beach, California against police violence and racial injustice in the days following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
Grant shared the photo to his Twitter account with the caption: “This is probably the most impactful picture I have ever taken.”
While some criticized the man in the picture for bringing a toddler to a “riot,” it should be noted that many of the protests that swept the country in the spring of 2020 started as peaceful demonstrations. It should also be noted that while it appears that the officer is aiming his weapon directly at this person’s face, the perspective of this photograph may be misleading and the officer’s weapon may be pointed in their vicinity, but not directly at them.
Grant elaborated on what exactly this photograph showed on his Instagram page, writing:
A man stands with his child in front of police during demonstrations Sunday in downtown Long Beach. Police pointed rubber bullet guns to get crowds to back away.
This man stood with his child most of the time until the police started using concussive grenades but they never fired on him but did occasionally pointed their rubber bullet guns towards him.
Grant shared a second photograph of this scene that shows police officers aiming their rubber bullet guns at the crowd where this person and the child were standing:
The local California news outlet KABC noted that the protests in Long Beach, California started as peaceful demonstrations, but were later marred by widespread looting:
Business owners in Long Beach were met with devastation Monday after a peaceful protest held by thousands in Long Beach over the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd was marred by widespread looting over the weekend in the downtown area and other commercial areas around the city, prompting the mayor to request National Guard troops to help restore peace.