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Summer sequels

The coronavirus spiked the movie blockbuster season, but drama is playing out in real life

Summer sequels

Minnesota State Troopers surround a statue of Christopher Columbus after protesters toppled it in St. Paul, Minn. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

In June and July, Americans usually fill movie theaters and gobble up hulking tubs of popcorn. But this year the coronavirus derailed a spate of Hollywood sequels and reboots: another James Bond movie, Disney’s live-action Mulan, at least three comic book spinoffs, and even a Top Gun sequel—34 years after the original.

If would-have-been marquees show there’s nothing new in the cinema, news headlines evidenced there’s nothing new under the sun: Heading into the Fourth of July holiday, Americans struggled—sometimes with each other—over long-standing debates and old storylines that reemerged.

Like past American summers—such as after 2015’s Charleston, S.C., church shooting and 2017’s deadly riot in Charlottesville, Va.—racial tensions again crescendoed. June began with peaceful protests followed by violent riots and concluded with rallies calling for leaders to remove Confederate monuments in public places. Crowds in several places toppled statues themselves, including in Richmond, Va., where Confederate monuments used to line a main thoroughfare. 

But mobs do damage to all: In Madison, Wis., on June 23, a throng tore down a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg—an abolitionist who before the Civil War fought runaway-slave catchers and died fighting for the Union during the Battle of Chickamauga. Many cities will debate removal of Confederate monuments, but on June 28 the Mississippi Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag, the last to enshrine the symbol.

A throng tore down a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg—an abolitionist who before the Civil War fought runaway-slave catchers and died fighting for the Union during the Battle of Chickamauga.

In a familiar plot, Republicans and Democrats failed to capitalize on common ground on police reform. Meanwhile, big cities experienced historic gun violence. On June 26 a Chicago gunman killed a 20-month-old boy and injured his mother when he opened fire on their car. The same weekend a stray bullet killed a 10-year-old girl there. Those were two of 18 homicides in the city in one weekend. The previous weekend 106 people were shot and 14 died. In a 28-day period beginning in late May, Chicago saw 96 homicides.

New York watched the same shooter story: Over a nine-day period beginning June 19, 112 people were shot. The bloodiest day on June 20 included 18 shootings and 24 victims. The death toll in New York was lower as of June 30, with only six people dead of the 112.

Meanwhile, more shootings around the country happened at George Floyd–related demonstrations, including at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, where at least two people had died in four shootings.

The coronavirus death toll hadn’t caught up as of late June, but many states saw a COVID-19 sequel. Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona were among the states seeing resurgences and scaled back reopening plans ahead of the holiday. The United States hadn’t yet seen an uptick in COVID-19 deaths associated with the surge in cases, but on June 28 the world passed a grim milestone: 500,000 confirmed deaths and 10 million confirmed cases.

Christians watched one more familiar story: A split Supreme Court decision that may jeopardize religious freedom protections and another that cuts out a Louisiana law to protect unborn babies and their mothers. On June 18 the court ruled 6-3 that employers who fire employees for being gay or transgender violate the Civil Rights Act. In his written opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch left open whether a religious freedom defense would protect conscience rights. Then on June 29, the court struck down the Louisiana law 5-4. Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote. 

But the next day came a plot twist: The court declared unconstitutional a Montana ruling that barred students there from using state tuition aid for religious schools.

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau is WORLD’s deputy editor based in East Tennessee. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelReneau.