Residents of several DC neighborhoods stood on their balconies and stoops Tuesday night, banging pots and pans in a show of noisy support for protesters demanding justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and demonstrating against racial injustice and police brutality. Videos of Mount Pleasant show the clanging lasted more than an hour after the citywide curfew started at 7 PM.
— Maddie (@maddiegascarr) June 3, 2020
The banging of pots and pans is a form of protest known as cacerolazo, which stems from late 20th century resistance in Latin American countries. The tactic is typically used to protest a government or a specific government action, says Eileen J. Findlay, a history professor at American University and chair of the Department of Critical Race, Gender, & Culture Studies. While cacerolazos can happen in the streets as part of larger protests, they often occur in homes when it’s too dangerous to go outside, such as during protests against Chile’s military dictatorship in the 1980s.
Part of what makes a cacerolazo effective, says Findlay, is that it’s a show of collective spirit. For instance, in Argentina and Chile, during protests against repressive governments, the singular clanking of a saucepan from one apartment would often grow into a building-wide symphony, crescendoing across the neighborhood as an orchestra of resistance.
For those staying at home because of coronavirus concerns, the cacerolazos are a way to show support and solidarity while social distancing, says Findlay. “It’s a call to resistance, a call to opposition, and a call to join in collectively—whatever way you can.”