As a mix of protests, civil unrest and police crackdowns erupted across the United States this week in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, President Trump announced Tuesday he would dispatch “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” across the nation to “quickly solve the problem.”

The federal escalation of force added a new chapter to the nation’s most recent reckoning with the history of police brutality and racism in America.

To try and encapsulate the meaning of the moment, Emerson College president Lee Pelton published a letter to his campus community this week calling Floyd’s killing a “legalized lynching.” Pelton also wrote about his encounters with racism throughout his life, including countless stops by police while driving and being stopped by two white officer, “guns drawn … because I looked like a black man who was alleged to have stolen something from a convenience store.”

“I wanted to share those [experiences] because I wanted to channel, in a very public way, for a public figure, George Floyd — and all of the other men and women in this country who had to endure that kind of racism,” Pelton told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Tuesday.

As for the question of what kinds of changes the groundswell of activity across the nation might be harnessed for, Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, shared a few ideas.

“It begins with a truth-telling about who we are as a nation and what the role of slavery and oppression has been,” Hall said. “And so H.R. 40 — which is a federal bill to create a commission to study reparations — is the beginning process of that truth telling.

“I think when we talk more specifically about policing practices, qualified immunity — which is a grant of protection to law enforcement, to protect them from liability for constitutional violations — is something that the Supreme Court has continued to expand,” Hall continued. “There is a way for Congress to limit the length to which officers can benefit from qualified immunity.

“Or, to just to begin at the municipal or local level, [we can] talk about divesting from police and reinvesting in community-based alternatives to violence prevention and crime reduction,” he added.