UPDATE: 7/7/2016: After being released by police custody around 5am Central time this morning, Diamond ‘Lavish’ Reynolds spoke publicly for the first time. According to Reynolds, St. Anthony Police Department were responsible for deactivating her Facebook and pulling the video. Read the full story with video of Reynolds speaking here.
1.4 million views. That’s the number of times people watched Lavish Reynolds’ video of Philando Castile, her 31-year-old Black boyfriend, bleeding out in real-time after being shot four times by Minnesota police officers.
Many of those who made an active choice earlier in the day to avoid watching the Alton Sterling video didn’t have time to register or process what they were seeing.
There was no article attached to the video, which could be taken as some kind of warning; no hashtag yet generated for the name of the bloodied man slumped over in the passenger seat.
There was just a plea for help from a woman — who we now know to be Lavish Reynolds — sharing with the world as she experienced, in real-time, police brutality.
As many of us were forewarned with the Baton Rouge video, there was no undoing what we just saw. With Reynolds, we not only witnessed, we experienced what police brutality looks like as it was unfolding.
Before the media could spin its angle, before conservative pundits justified another senseless death with a criminal report, we sat there with Lavish Reynolds as we watched Castile take his final breaths.
Social media has made civil rights issues impossible to ignore. In an age where hashtags become social movements with political influence, social media has become a powerful tool for sharing first-hand accounts from the voices that rarely receive any air time. Social media isn’t just used to report the news. It IS the news.
Mark Zuckerberg likely won’t invite her to Facebook headquarters like Chewbacca mom, but what Reynolds did was not only courageous, it showed how the simplicity of one of Facebook’s latest features has made live reporting accessible to virtually anyone, anywhere.
Reynolds didn’t have to go through a third-party site, download an app she wasn’t already using or wait for the video to process after being uploaded. She was able to record in real time exactly what was happening to her.
On the flip side, Reynolds’ video shows us how Facebook has the capacity to censor Black lives.
Shortly before 11 p.m. Pacific Time, Facebook not only erased Reynold’s video, it temporarily deactivated her account, presumably for violating policy. Meanwhile, direct embeds of the Alton Sterling video continue to be accessible through the site.
This leaves us with a dilemma, a question. Who owns this technology? Who owns this new instrument of power? Facebook? Or, we, the users?