Even as the 2020 MTV VMAs aired with a social distance-friendly program, thousands across the nation continued to protest injustice — particularly in the form of police shootings of Black Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more recently, Jacob Black. While the focus of the show was placed firmly on the music, the stars in attendance wouldn’t let the protests stray far from viewers’ minds.
Accepting the Best R&B VMA for his After Hours single “Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd lamented being unable to enjoy the moment with the recent killings weighing on him. “It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment,” he admitted. “So, I’m just gonna say: Justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor. Thank you.” He would go on to do it again while accepting Video Of The Year.
— MTV (@MTV) August 31, 2020
Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers executing a no-knock warrant at her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Upon hearing the break-in, her boyfriend fired at the unidentified intruders and their return fire struck Taylor, who was in bed. Several people, including rapper Cordae, were arrested at a sit-in at Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home to demand the arrest of the three officers responsible for the shooting.
Meanwhile, Blake was a 29-year-old man who was shot in the back by officer Rusten Sheskey of the Kenosha Police Department while trying to break up a fight between two women, according to witnesses. A bystander’s video showed officer Sheskey firing seven shots as Blake was turned away from him. Blake was hit with four bullets, and is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down. Since then, the protests have included a players strike in the NBA.
Watch The Weeknd’s acceptance speech above.