Celebs reveal what being inside the protests is really like

Following a disturbing viral video, people have taken to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day 2020. Though Hollywood stands nearly 2,000 miles away from the Twin Cities, celebrities have sprung into action to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Beyonce posted a powerful video message urging her over 100 million followers to sign one of four petitions. Billie Eilish blasted the concept of "aLL liVeS maTtEr" in a blistering Instagram post where she called for those who repeat the phrase to "shut the f**k [up]." Chrissy Teigen pledged to donate $200,000 to bail out protesters, Jimmy Kimmel called out President Donald Trump, and even Taylor Swift, who's notoriously tight-lipped about politics, slammed the POTUS for "stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism [his] entire presidency." At the time of this writing, the tweet has become her most-liked, according to Elle.

Though these celebrities are undeniably using their massive platforms to rally against racism and police brutality, an increasing number of stars have actually shown up on the ground to stand in solidarity with their fellow Americans. According to The New York Times, the widespread demonstrations are "increasingly giving way to violence and chaos" and there have been a number of injuries and casualties as cities instill strict curfews and send in the National Guard. Here's what the protests are really like, according to celebrities who were in the thick of it.

Nick Cannon went to Minneapolis

Nick Cannon didn't protest at home. The Masked Singer host wanted to go to the source, where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck for over eight minutes, nearly three of which he was unresponsive, according to CNN. Cannon explained his choice to join the Twin City protest in an op-ed for Variety"I needed to see the people in that community — how much love they had for their community and their people and how much pain this has caused," he wrote. "We feel the pain go across the world — the anger and the hurt. Those visuals will never be removed from our minds."

Once on the ground, the rapper revealed he saw "a lot of pain and disappointment" in Minneapolis law enforcement. At the intersection of 38th and Chicago, the site of the incident, Cannon said people were crying at the memorial. "... It was disappointment more than anything," he wrote. "They didn't think something like this would happen in Minneapolis. But it did."

Cannon also shared some photos from the protests: one of him standing in the midst of a crowd holding a sign reading "Justice for George Floyd" and another of him standing in front of the National Guard, displaying the way the protests have become partially militarized. His sweatshirt bore the phrase "Please I Can't Breathe," a rallying cry for the black lives lost at the hands of the police.

Halsey gave out first aid in Santa Monica

Halsey donated to various charities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, but she also put her money where her mouth was and went to the front lines of the protests, bringing medical supplies to one in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, it looks like things quickly became chaotic. In an Instagram story, captured by a fan on Twitter, the singer posted a shocking photo of a large bruise on her hip, which she sustained after being shot with rubber bullets. In a Twitter post, she urged her followers to take rubber bullets seriously. "Do not underplay these rubber bullets [because] you have been told they are 'not lethal,'" she wrote. "I had to bandage a man who looked like his entire face had exploded today. So before you say, from the comfort of your home, that we're exaggerating, please consider the injuries some have suffered."

The day prior, the Badlands singer explained that the violence seemingly erupted out of nowhere. In a tweet, she wrote that "the frontline was calm," and they didn't provoke officers, but many of her fellow protesters were "shot, gassed [and] antagonized." She also tried her best to get people to safety who were immigrants and in the United States on visas. This may have pointed to her ex-boyfriend Yungblud, a British singer who also attended the rally.

Yungblood helped drag people to safety

According to Us Weekly, Yungblud — the British singer born Dominic Richard Harrison — reunited with his ex-girlfriend Halsey at the Santa Monica protests amidst rumors of her split from Evan Peters, with the Badlands singer revealing her former flame was quite heroic when things took a violent turn. In a tweet, Halsey said he "literally ran exposed in front of rounds being shot to drag wounded people to safety without even thinking twice."

Yungblud seemed to share the same admiration, claiming Halsey was "incredible," "brave," and "inspirational" when she acted "fearlessly and selflessly." "When innocent people were unlawfully wounded, [you] were there with a medical kid bandaging them up," he wrote. "You didn't think about yourself for one moment. I am proud to [know] you."

Harrison also used Twitter to share his perspective on the protests. He posted a video that seemingly captured a moment where the police fired shots, presumably of rubber bullets, as protesters ran. "They will fight with violence, we will fight with our words, unity and peace. And we will win," he wrote.

John Cusack got a baton to the bike in Chicago

It looks like John Cusack traded his Say Anything boombox for a protest sign and joined the George Floyd protests in Chicago. Things ended up taking a violent turn, with Cusack claiming he was attacked by the police. In a tweet — with an accompanying video — the actor claimed, "Cops didn't like me filming the burning car so they came at me with batons. Hitting my bike."

The video appears to depict someone who's presumably a police officer screaming at Cusack to "move, get out of here, get your bike out of here now." It sounds like the actor agreed but wasn't quick enough to avoid the baton. About a half-hour later, Cusack revealed that police had taken out their pepper spray but not their tear gas. The following evening, the actor accused the Chicago Police Department of "locking resistors into a zone" by raising four bridges, closing public transit, and shutting streets and highways to stop people from exiting or entering the downtown area. "Was a really bad move," he wrote.

According to People, Cusack also clarified on Twitter that he wasn't assaulted by officers, per se, and didn't want to be part of headlines. He was "of no importance" and didn't see any press in the area, which pushed him to share. "I was just a witness to what was happening in Chicago," he wrote.

Ariana Grande urged the media to highlight peaceful protests

Ariana Grande put on a mask and one of her signature oversize sweatshirts to hit the protests in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. The star, who was holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign, was spotted marching along with her fellow protesters and even stopped to pose for a selfie with someone who appeared to be a fan. She later took to Twitter to highlight the area's peaceful protests, which she believed received little media coverage compared to the violence and looting witnessed across Los Angeles.

"Hours and miles of peaceful protesting yesterday that got little to no coverage," she wrote. "All throughout Beverly Hills and West Hollywood we chanted, people beeped and cheered along. We were passionate, we were loud, we were loving. Cover this too please."

"Rain On Me," Grande's single with pal Lady Gaga, debuted at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, but the singer's socials have been thin with self-promotion. Instead, she's been using her platform to encourage her almost 80 million followers to take political action. The day Gaga's album dropped with the single, Grande eschewed any mention of it and instead tweeted, "A lot of things feel scary, dangerous and uncertain right now... but there are things within our control: voting, contacting lawmakers, and taking the census. The most important thing you can do right now to take the power back is become a voter ..."

J.R. Smith owned up to attacking a car vandal

NBA star J.R. Smith was inadvertently caught on the destructive side of Los Angeles' protests — and he fought back against the person who took it upon himself to allegedly destroy his property. According to TMZ (who got hold of a shocking video), Smith "unleashed a barrage of violent kicks" on a man who allegedly smashed his car's window. Per the report, several of those blows were to the head, including a final blow when the man eventually managed to stand up. Smith's friends ultimately intervened, and the man ran off.

According to TMZ, who caught Smith's Instagram Stories, the basketball pro claimed he was parked in a residential area away from the looting when "one of these motherfu**king white boys didn't know where he was going and broke my f**king window in my truck." In turn, he "chased him down and whooped his a**." Smith maintained the fact that the violent incident was not motivated by hate or race. It was just payback for messing with his truck.

Ironically, Smith doesn't seem to mind the destruction of vehicles as a whole — just cars that belong to him. He posed for an Instagram photo standing on a destroyed, burned-up car with some fellow protesters. "NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!" he wrote.

Emily Ratajkowski watched a cop car go up in flames

Emily Ratajkowski also spoke out against the actions of law enforcement during the Los Angeles protests. The model, who attended the demonstration on May 30th, posted a video of a car burning in the Fairfax District and called to "#defundthepolice." Per her tweet, it went down like this: they marched for "an hour and a half through the streets" without seeing a single cop before stumbling upon the "empty cop car" in "the middle of the intersection" while four police officers were about "10 feet away." People started marking the car with graffiti, smashing the mirrors, "and then it was on fire." 

According to ABC 7, the single, burning car wasn't an anomaly, as the area saw multiple police cars vandalized. In a separate tweet, Ratajkowski slammed the protest's media coverage and claimed the "police are MILITARIZED and civilians have no weapons." She alleged that the protests only take a violent turn when "an actual ARMY is deployed."

The following day, the model went to the protests in Santa Monica, which she claimed were "depressing." Ratajkowski tweeted that hundreds of protesters were peacefully kneeling and chanting in front of "dozens of police cars [and] National Guard," but kids were reportedly looting the promenade blocks away without a cop in sight. "The National Guard and LAPD basically said 'go ahead' to the looting and stayed out of the area instead spending their time tear gassing protesters," she wrote.

Kendrick Sampson's gathering erupted in violence

Insecure actor Kendrick Sampson saw the violence at the Los Angeles protests first hand. In an Instagram Live video, the actor documented the violence as police fired rubber bullets and raised their batons to shrieking protesters. A clip from CNN shows the actor being struck on the front lines, but it's even more harrowing from his immediate perspective. According to Vulture, who captured the live stream, Sampson revealed, "They shot me four times already. I already got hurt and I got hit with a baton."

"These motherf**kers are only here to terrorize black and brown communities and indigenous folk. To terrorize the most vulnerable," said the actor, who organized the Pan Pacific Park gathering for his Build Power initiative (via Vulture). "This was completely peaceful. All these folks started in a park, pouring libations, praying, and talking about what we can do to build up our communities. I was about to go home."

In a separate video, Sampson documented the arrest of Ricci Sergienko, who he claimed was "targeted because he called out the undercover cops in the LAPD," adding that "he said that the people throwing things (water bottles and such) at the police are not protesters, they are undercover cops ... who are agitators and trying to give justification to the brutality." Sampson also showed images of his wounds up close, which he admitted: "look gross." In the Instagram post, he claimed a cop was aiming rubber bullets at people's heads.

Machine Gun Kelly's stomach tattoo was a giveaway

Machine Gun Kelly seemed to be in Halsey's camp during the less violent portion of the Los Angeles protests (dating rumors aside, let's not forget the pair appeared together in the short-lived, but highly underrated TV series Roadies). According to TMZ, the rapper was spotted with Yungblud and Mod Sun. Kelly's rumored flame Megan Fox, who appeared in the high energy video for his recent single "Bloody Valentine," was not present. This was also reportedly one of the protests where a cop car was set on fire.

The rapper later took to Instagram to share some photos from the day. He posed amid a crowd holding a sign that read, "silence is betrayal." The star had pulled down his mask so he could clearly be identified.

Like Halsey, MGK also attended protests the following day but covered his face with a black bandanna — though the anarchy stomach tattoo was a clear giveaway. He wasn't hiding anything. According to Just Jared, the star had a new sign that read "prosecute killer cops." This protest appeared to be peaceful, which saved MGK a painful shirtless encounter with rubber bullets (they are, as Halsey said, no joke).

Palaye Royale were brought to tears

Emerson Barrett and his bandmate Sebastian Danzig, who both rose to fame in the Canadian-American rock outfit Palaye Royale, attended the Los Angeles protests on May 31 and documented how what started as a peaceful protest devolved to destruction. Following the county's 6 p.m. curfew, Danzig shared a video on Twitter of his fellow protesters respectfully chanting "this is a peaceful protest" steps away from the National Guard. Similarly, Barrett shared a video from this calmer portion of their march, with protesters chanting the same thing. "We will do this everyday until we see justice," he wrote.

The experience of such a unified, peaceful protest was emotional enough that it brought Barrett to tears. "Literally made me cry as walking with the power of the people," he tweeted, but things took a turn towards the end of the demonstration when the group stumbled upon "looters and pure destruction." As the musician wrote, punctuated with a teary-eyed emoji: "There is a clear divide of people there to make change mixed [with] people causing chaos."

Though Barrett seemed deflated by the end of Sunday's protest, the artist stuck by his word and hit the streets again on Monday. This time, he posted a video of peaceful protesters demonstrating at the intersection of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood.

Jaylen Brown passed the megaphone to Lil Yachty

Like Nick Cannon, Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown also traveled to attend a protest. According to CBS Sports, the NBA star "drove 15 hours from Boston to his home state of Georgia to lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta." The demonstration — which he announced on social media — attracted star power like rapper Lil Yachty and fellow NBA players Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson. The star posted a video of Yachty, who was speaking into a megaphone, from the event.

"Unfortunately, we got to do s**t like this to get our voices heard," Lil Yachty said. "It doesn't make any sense to me now as I sat at home, and I'm trying to make it add up as to why we have to go through breaking windows, demolishing our — this is, all this is ours ... we live here ... so it's unfortunate we got to do this just to show our frustration."

Brown shared numerous posts from the demonstration, including a photo of him holding a megaphone and a sign with the words "I can't breathe." According to CBS Sports, these words became a symbol of the movement in 2014 after they were spoken by Eric Garner, who was "killed by police in New York." They were again, echoed by George Floyd.

Porsha Williams is ignoring the hate

Real Housewives of Atlanta's Porsha Williams has activism in her blood. The star calls civil rights leader Hosea Williams grandpa, and she followed in her familial footsteps by attending Atlanta's Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday, May 30. In a video from The Shade Room, the reality star led her fellow protesters in a chant of "hands up, don't shoot."

According to Atlanta Black Star, Williams' participation wasn't entirely well-received. The star was criticized for the infamous moment on her Bravo show, where she admitted she believed the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad. Other social media commenters believed the RHOA star was only marching for attention; however, she seemed a bit too busy to acknowledge the hate.

On June 1, Williams posted a photo of the protests, urging her followers to ask for help if they or someone they know has been arrested for peacefully protesting in Atlanta. "... Please email helpme@newcivilrights.org we have attorneys & funds available to get you out ASAP!" About an hour later, she shared an Instagram story from the moment tear gas was shot into the crowd, which sent everyone frantically running.