Blackout Tuesday: Protest against George Floyd's death spreads far beyond music

Mick Jagger, LeBron James and Tiffany Trump are among those filling social media with black boxes, messages of support and calls to donate to civil rights organizations.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
3 min read

On June 1, a protestor in Philadelphia marches wearing a mask reading "I can't breathe." 

Mark Makela/Getty Images

"Blackout Tuesday" began as a music industry protest to George Floyd's death in police custody, which has led to protests worldwide. But the initiative has spread well beyond record labels and musicians, with actors, sports teams and even the president's daughter Tiffany Trump joining in.

Music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang spearheaded the effort, creating a website urging supporters to "take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community."

Numerous large music labels, as well as iconic musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Mick Jagger, joined the initiative, sharing the message on social media with the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused

"It is heartbreaking to see America tearing itself apart again over issues of race," Rolling Stones frontman Jagger tweeted Monday. "Tomorrow I stand with my fellow artists and observe Blackout Tuesday to combat racial discrimination and social injustice."

The Rolling Stones' official group Twitter account also tweeted about the event. "Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie stand with all who object to racism, violence or bigotry," a tweet sent Monday read.

The movement spread to social media, with many posting black squares on their Instagram and Facebook accounts to show support. Celebrities such as NBA star LeBron James, actor John Boyega and singer Katy Perry were among those who joined in, as did President Donald Trump's daughter Tiffany. Singer Rihanna posted that her Fenty beauty empire wouldn't be conducting any business on Tuesday. And Pro Football Talk reported that the Chicago Bears had canceled all player and team meetings to mark the day.

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👑 #blackouttuesday⚫️ #BLM✊🏾

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

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BLACK LIVES MATTER. @blklivesmatter #blackouttuesday

A post shared by Kylie 🤍 (@kyliejenner) on

Activists urged supporters not to use the #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM hashtags with these posts so those hashtags could continue to be used to share information.

The flood of social media posts may last just a day, but organizers Thomas and Agyemang say on their site that "this is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced."

"This is what solidarity looks like," wrote musician Billy Bragg. "Take a day out to reflect on what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community."

Columbia Records noted in a tweet that "this is not a day off," adding, that "instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity."

A tweet from Interscope Records noted that the label will not release new music on Tuesday and instead will contribute to "organizations that help to bail out protesters exercising their right to peaceably assemble, aid lawyers working for systematic change, and provide assistance to charities focused on creating economic empowerment in the black community."

Video-sharing platform TikTok also observed the day, announcing there would be no playlists or campaigns on TikTok's Sounds page on Tuesday.

"It's hard to know what to say because I've been dealing with racism my entire life," famed producer Quincy Jones tweeted. "That said, it's rearing its ugly head right now & by God it's time to deal with it once & for all. My team & I stand for justice. Convos will be had & action will be taken."

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed African American, died on May 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video pressing his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." Protests since then have been staged worldwide, with some erupting in violence.

On Monday, a number of ViacomCBS networks, including BET, CBS Sports Network and Nickelodeon, went dark across their platforms for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time Chauvin pinned Floyd down with his knee. (Disclosure: ViacomCBS is CNET's parent company.) 

Spotify added a silent track to some playlists and podcasts on Blackout Tuesday. "Select participating playlists and podcasts will include an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence as a solemn acknowledgement for the length of time that George Floyd was suffocated," the company said in a blog post.