Protests, politics, and the pandemic: A turbulent year in photos

In a year like no other, here are some of the photos that characterize and capture what it was like living through 2020. 

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The dust is finally settling on 2020. 

From a trying presidential election cycle that unveiled a deeply divided country, to months of protests against racial injustice and police brutality that gripped cities across the nation, to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 300,000 people in the U.S. alone.

Below, see’s breakdown of the photos that characterize and capture some of 2020’s key moments.

The Election

Hundreds of boats idle through downtown on the St. Johns River during a rally Sunday, June 14, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla., celebrating President Donald Trump’s birthday.

Lightning streaks across the sky as President Donald Trump exits Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland following a re-election campaign rally in Londonderry, N.H., on Aug. 28, 2020. The day before, Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for his reelection at the White House and, despite the coronavirus pandemic, resumed campaigning in key battleground states.


People sit atop a hillside overlooking a drive-in presidential debate watch party at Fort Mason in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2020. The first of two debates between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump became a chaotic spectacle filled with frequent interruptions.

Members of the Navajo Nation ride on horseback to a polling station in Kayenta, Arizona, on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. as part of a “Ride to the Polls” initiative encouraging Native youth to vote.

President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff react on stage after Biden’s address to the nation from the Chase Center on November 7, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. After four days of counting the high volume of mail-in ballots, the race was called for Biden, and Harris became the first woman, first Black person, and first person of South Asian descent to win the vice presidency.


A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down as he walks past a burning building in Minneapolis on May 28, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.


A protest against police brutality, following George Floyd’s death, moves up to the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 31, 2020.

“I was covering the May 31 Black Lives Matter protest at the State House and I noticed these Mass General doctors and nurses who walked down the street after leaving their VERY busy jobs at the hospital to join the protest,” NBC10Boston photographer Mark Garfinkel told about his experience capturing this moment. “I was touched by the fact that these health care professionals were in the midst of the very busy COVID-19 first wave yet still came out to protest [for] what they believed in.”


Police officers stand behind a lit trash can in the Boston Common during a protest against George Floyd’s death on May 31, 2020. From candlelight vigils to rallies and marches, protestors took to the streets in cities across the U.S., and in other parts of the world, in response to police violence against Black people.

President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington on June 1, 2020. Trump began June with his Bible-clutching photo op outside the church after authorities used chemicals and batons to scatter peaceful demonstrators, and the month never got less jarring or divisive.


A protester shouts at a police officer as demonstrators and police converge at Forest Hills T Station following a rally and vigil for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and local fallen people, organized by Black Lives Matter Boston and Violence in Boston. The event on June 2, 2020, ended peacefully with police and protesters dispersing.

A makeshift memorial to George Floyd on June 4, 2020, at the site in Minneapolis where he died in police custody.

People protest in the rain near the White House in Washington on June 4, 2020, over the death of George Floyd.


NBC10Boston photographer Mark Garfinkel told that snapping this picture on June 10 near the North End’s Waterfront was one of his more memorable moments of the year. ”After being sent by NBC10Boston’s news desk on a report that the Christopher Columbus statue had been beheaded overnight, I immediately ‘saw’ this photo,” Garfinkel said. “What I mean to say is that all components to a strong photo came together. History books have told us that Columbus discovered America, so the flag in the photo was important. Many don’t see history the same way so I think photographing the statue facing the flag in the statue’s current (defaced) condition is important as well.”

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Five-year-old Marin Tillberg had enough of waiting in the long lines at Market Basket in Waltham as people prepared for the coronavirus on March 13.


Mayor Marty Walsh announced the closure of Boston Public Schools on March 13.

Gilberto Perez handed out sandwiches to the homeless inside St. Francis Day Center, one of Boston’s largest shelters, on March 23. The onset of the pandemic turned Boston’s homeless aid agencies on their head.

Jen Andonian, project manager for the MGH Center for Disaster Medicine, and Matt Shearer, senior analyst at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, got married at the MGH Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital on March 27.

Jean Follett, 86, got a visit from her daughter, Charlene, in Peabody on March 23. Charlene crouches outside to show her some recent photos of her grandchildren as they talked through a dining room window at the Ralph Kaplan Estates Assisted Living facility.

A New England Patriots jet arrived at Logan Airport after flying from China with a massive shipment of over one million N95 masks on April 1. Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker got emotional and appeared on the verge of tears as he thanked the Kraft family at the start of his remarks.

Staff member Jeana Damiano chooses flowers outside Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston on April 10. About 1,000 spring flowers, some of which were going to line the route of the 2020 Boston Marathon, were arranged in a heart outside the center and given to health care workers as they concluded long shifts at the hospital.

Manny Costomiris, the owner of Jimmy’s Broad Street Diner in Weymouth, takes an order to go on April 30. The restaurant employed two dozen before the shutdown, but at the time it was just Manny and a handful of workers.

Alice Lowell, the wife of veteran Charles Lowell who died of the COVID-19 virus at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home, waters the plants while cleaning out the house the couple shared for 30 years in Hardwick on May 2.

The Massachusetts National Guard 104th Fighter Wing flies over the Boston area, to show support during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 6.

Guy Martelle, wearing a covering that was once a Halloween costume, has a bench all to himself on Court Street in Boston on May 12.

Keolis employee Colin Gardinier sprays disinfectant inside an MBTA commuter rail train on May 15.

A graduate of Lawrence High School celebrates during a graduation car parade on June 5.

Nina Coletta gets a kiss from her husband, Edmund, as he arrived to take her home from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston on June 23. Coletta would be going home for the first time in over 70 days after falling ill to COVID-19.

Jaisha Hernandez, 8, rides on The Boston Common Frog Pond Carousel on August 30. It was wrapped with plastic to separate riders to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

School children are spaced apart in one of the rooms used for lunch at Woodland Elementary School in Milford on Sept. 11.

Jake Horan eats his lunch outside Villa Mexico Cafe on Water Street in Boston on Oct. 6. His only company on the city block is a pigeon.

PCA Cesar Merida walks through a temporary tent set up at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester on Nov. 11.

Physician Alister Martin received one of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from RN Jennifer Lisciotti at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Dec. 16.


The above photo is from 2019, but it took on new, tragic importance in January when Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna — along with seven others — were killed in a helicopter crash on their way to Gianna’s AAU basketball practice.

The Los Angeles Dodgers landed two familiar faces for Red Sox fans: David Price and Mookie Betts. The duo helped lead the Dodgers to the franchise’s seventh World Series victory, while the Red Sox finished last in the AL East.

Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira Brazil broke the record for the largest wave ever ridden by a woman in February with this 73.5-foot swell at Praia do Norte or North Beach in Nazare, Portugal.

A mid-march game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz turned out to be one of the most important moments of the year when Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before tip-off. In an eerie scene, players filed off the floor after warming up as fans buzzed uncertainly in the stands. Hours later, the NBA — followed by other sports leagues, and then by the rest of the country — shut down indefinitely.

Even during the pandemic, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Phil Mickelson (not pictured) managed to put together a charity golf match that raised more than $20 million for COVID-19 relief.

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson led protests in Minneapolis following the death of his friend George Floyd. Here, Jackson is pictured with Floyd’s daughter Gianna.

Maya Moore stepped away from a Hall-of-Fame WNBA career in 2019 to help free Jonathan Irons — who she eventually married — from a 50-year prison sentence. Irons was freed in July. He was convicted of burglary and assault in 1997 after prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have strengthened his case, per the judge.

Tom Brady stunned the sports world by leaving the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In September, he played his first regular-season game — a 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Brady’s new look was a shock to the system for Patriots fans everywhere.

Inside the NBA’s Disney World bubble, two outside events — the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as nationwide protests against police violence and inequality following the murder of George Floyd — came together. After Jacob Blake was shot in Wisconsin, the league shut down again as players demanded the NBA take further action to combat racism. This photo captured Celtics wing Jaylen Brown — an outspoken advocate for equality — in his “Liberation” jersey waiting to check into a game.

The Dodgers’ World Series victory was marred by the post-game celebration. Infielder Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 mid-game and was taken off the field to isolate. But when the Dodgers won, Turner returned and celebrated with his teammates — even taking the above mask-less photo next to manager Dave Roberts. Major League Baseball did not punish Turner.

On Nov. 9, long-time Celtics player, coach and broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn died at 86.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins lit the sports world on fire with this game-winning catch with three defenders crowded around him as time expired. Somehow, even as he disappeared into a thicket of arms all pulling and pushing at the ball, Hopkins managed to hang on and help Arizona claim a victory. The Cardinals are now poised to make the playoffs.

Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in an SEC football game with this kickoff. Later in Vanderbilt’s season, Fuller converted a pair of extra points.

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