How a Media Company You’ve Never Heard of Is Leading the Protest Coverage

Instead of talking heads and helicopters, Unicorn Riot does intimate live streams

A black man walks in front of Minneapolis police officers during protests
Unicorn Riot offers first-hand perspectives from Minneapolis via intimate live streams.
Screenshot via Unicorn Riot on YouTube
By Alex Lauer / June 5, 2020 6:30 am

Would four former Minneapolis police officers be charged in the killing of George Floyd had there not been bystander video of the incident? Would they even have been fired in the first place? And would there have been civil rights demonstrations at this scale across the country, and the world, in response to his death without that unbiased evidence? 

These are some of the questions being raised about the importance of social media in the wake of Floyd’s murder. But if first-hand recordings of police brutality are one piece of a system that can potentially bring much-delayed justice, another is coverage of the aftermath; capturing the community response, not from elected officials or talking heads, but from normal people, is essential in understanding the fraught situation. As The New Yorker pointed out, Unicorn Riot is doing just that.

Never heard of Unicorn Riot? Their decidedly non-mainstream name is just one of the ways the media organization stands out from Fox News, CNN and other outlets. Officially founded as an educational nonprofit in 2015 (the website proudly claims that it’s viewer-supported and there are no ads or paywalls to content), the rag-tag media company has been an on-the-ground source at major social and environmental justice events from protests following the shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police in 2015 to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

“For the past week in Minneapolis, Unicorn Riot has delivered a sustained act of witness: night after night of vigils and struggle and trouble,” wrote The New Yorker. “The coverage is impressive for its intimacy with the community and unrivalled in its ability to tell the story patiently, in hour upon hour of searching the streets for clarity.”

That coverage comes most potently in the form of long-format live streams on various platforms, including YouTube and Facebook. And while other news outlets — local, national and international — have brought reporters to the streets of Minneapolis, The New Yorker notes its the community intimacy and experience that makes Unicorn Riot stand out.

“This past Friday, [co-founder Niko Georgiades] was shooting video in the smoldering streets when he happened upon a familiar source,” wrote The New Yorker. “At the end of the interview, she said, ‘I love you,’ and he said, ‘I love you, too.’”

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