For McQuarrie, it was most important to him not to center himself and his research in this project, but instead give a truthful, firsthand account of what’s happening at George Floyd Square while focusing on what it says about contemporary urban protest.

“I think the principle that I went in with, which was different from how I've approached other research projects, is I went in there as a supporter of the square first and as a researcher second,” he said. “As a white man and a sociologist in a Black space of protest, it has been necessary to operate with that principle and I think that's guided my dialogue with the community.”

Since the video was released on March 31, it has been viewed, shared and liked about 30,000 times on Facebook and Instagram. Through the process of developing the video and observing George Floyd Square, McQuarrie said he believes a new kind of activism is emerging.

“We are in a moment when I think the traditional repertoires of protest — demonstrations in front of capitol buildings to get policy changed and implemented by applying pressure of public opinion to policy makers — are breaking down along with a lot of other institutions,” he said. “At the same time, we don't really have very many good ways of developing alternatives to traditional failed solutions to these problems. So I think the move toward things like occupations is going to be more and more prevalent as people try to imagine and develop alternatives.”

Aside from understanding George Floyd Square as a novel protest tactic, there are many other elements McQuarrie observed that make it particularly distinctive.

“George Floyd Square emerged in a neighborhood that has long-standing problems and is pressured by gentrification,” he said. “Building an effective protest in such a place requires people who can bridge different constituencies. In the square it has mostly been Black women who have the skills and networks to accomplish this. Unlike many autonomous zones, George Floyd Square is also a ‘sacred space’ for mourning along with being an ongoing site of protest.”

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences