It has been over two weeks since the murder of George Floyd. Since then, protests have been surging not only across the nation, but the world. Amid all the peaceful protests, some of them have turned violent. The protesters themselves have not only turned violent, but also the police. Police have responded to peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The 1960s civil rights demonstrations were the last time that the press have found themselves in between so much violence. Journalists have found themselves in the crossfire of all the violence. They have been injured and even arrested by police after clearly showing their credentials. One photographer was even blinded in one eye from a rubber bullet.

The question journalists are asking themselves is whether or not it is safe to go to these protests. It is their job to be in the middle of these conflicts, but are some of the protests too dangerous?

Since the beginning of the protests I have been able to go to several here in Bloomington, as well as Davenport, Iowa. At the protest I did my normal journalist stuff, like take pictures and ask a few people questions here and there.

But what made my experience different from most journalists is that I made my time at the protest more than just a collection of pictures and a few quotes for content. I made my time there have a purpose.

At the Davenport protests, I was not with any newspaper or media outlets. I was there for myself and to help spread the message. I listened to individuals’ stories and experiences. They were so moving and eye opening, that I felt them internally.

I did the same thing here in Bloomington while working with The Vidette, being very personal and real with everyone I met.

After taking the time to have a real conversation with people, they felt comfortable to have me around. They started to ask me when I was coming back or if I would be at the next protest. I was more than just a journalist to these people; I was their friend.

It is important to me to make these connections by being personal because it guarantees that I won’t ever forget them. I will remember each and every one of the stories until the day I die because of the impact that they had on me.

These connections are also important because people often see the media as people trying to twist words or manipulate the truth. If they see and understand my purpose to be there and understand why I am different, then they won’t see me as the enemy.

I could have been just as easily looked at as just another guy in the crowd with a camera. I also could have just as easily gotten the pictures I needed and then left. But I didn’t. I stayed at the protest until they were over no matter how long they were because with all the violence happening in the world, the little things go a long way.

ALEX GANT is Photo Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @AlexGant16

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