Keke Palmer Shows Other Celebrities How to Get Protesting Right

Keke Palmer asked a National Guard soldier to march with peaceful protesters, and explained why kneeling isn’t enough of an act of solidarity.

Keke Palmer
Photograph by Victoria Stevens for W magazine.

In a time when many celebrities are still met with rallying cries to open their wallets to support those who are peacefully protesting against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, there are some who are getting it right.

Take Keke Palmer, for example, who was marching peacefully in Los Angeles, and spoke with the National Guard officers who had been deployed to “control” the crowd.

A video of the musician and actress circulated on Twitter, in which she can be seen asking for the soldiers to support the protestors by marching with them.

“I don’t know if you’re on social media, because the news don’t tell you everything, but you have to pay attention to what’s going on…we have a President that’s trying to incite a race war,” she said. “When the borders are closed, we can’t leave. You have people in here that need your help.”

The borders the actress was referring to are the borders of officers and soldiers that prevent protestors from being able to leave a protest at any given moment, without the threat of violence or arrest. It’s especially poignant that she would bring this up in a time when police and military are using tactics like “kettling” which barricade protestors in from all sides, and prevent them from being able to move away peacefully.

This is what happened on Tuesday night on the Manhattan Bridge, when roughly 5,000 protestors attempting to peacefully march home after the imposed citywide 8 P.M. curfew were blocked by police on both sides of the bridge, and held captive for hours before being released into Brooklyn. This is also essentially what happened in Seattle, when a reporter was tear gassed on live television, and effectively pushed up against a fence with no easy way out. And this is what happened in Los Angeles, when police barricaded protestors in and had buses ready to arrest them if they approached.

“Stand together with the community, with society, to stop the governmental oppression. Period. We need you,” Palmer said, before one soldier told her that he agreed with her.

“So, then march beside us,” she requested.

Palmer then asked him to “be the change” and the soldier said he would only march one block because he has to “control this area.”

“March with us, it would send a huge message…protect us…stand beside us,” she asked, before he replied, “I’m also protecting some of these businesses,” and offered to kneel for a few seconds in lieu of marching.

“That ain’t enough for me,” Palmer retorted. Even though the crowd cheered the National Guard soldiers for kneeling, Palmer stood her ground, repeating that it wasn’t enough.

It’s not enough for the soldiers and officers to kneel for a few moments, especially when many of them do this just for a photo opportunity only to open fire on a crowd of peaceful citizens moments later with tear gas and rubber bullets, once the cameras are turned away from them. Media outlets report on the officers taking a knee, but don’t show the macing and the tear gas canisters being thrown after the fact.

Palmer later said in an interview with Good Morning America that “though the kneeling can be seen as a walk in the same direction, we all can also see that just moments after in some of these cities where we’ve seen the kneeling we’ve also seen the teargassing and everything, the chaos afterwards.”

“The reality is,” Palmer continued, “We have a president that with every tweet incites divisiveness. Some would even say a situation where our military has orders to unleash on its citizens. Obviously everybody has a choice to make, and working for the government—whether you are a policeman or working with the National Guard or in politics, I think I as a citizen want to know, what side of history are you trying to be on?” she told GMA.

“Is there a person in that uniform? I know there’s a person in that uniform, and I want to know that the people that are in these powerful position of saving or taking a life, I wanna know they are with the citizens and committed to taking a stand against the system and the injustices,” she went on. “If we are unified, no matter who you are or what you’re wearing, we can create a change. Buildings can be rebuilt, but once lives are taken, they’re gone.”

Related: Keke Palmer’s Prescient Wisdom