Black Lives Matter is a movement that started after the death of 17 year-old, Trayvon Martin. The young teen was killed in a Florida neighborhood by the neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. The reason why this case caused so much controversy within the Black community is because of how George Zimmerman “targeted” Trayvon for looking suspicious in a gated community. Zimmerman called the non-emergency number for the Sanford police, after a confrontation, Martin was fatally shot. This case did not sit well with the Black community due to the fact that reportedly, Zimmerman had targeted Martin for being black.
The Black Lives Matter movement started to gain momentum in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown. This case was more controversial in the Black community because it was a shooting between a young Black man and a police officer. The founders of the movement then had a freedom ride from St. Louis, Missouri to Ferguson, Missouri. The freedom ride and there being riots in Ferguson allowed the movement to gain national notoriety.
The goals that BLM established include; ending broken windows policing, community oversight, limit the use of force, independently investigate and prosecute, have community representation, give people the chance to review body camera footage of themselves, change the training program of police officers, end for-profit policing, demilitarize the police, and have fair police union contracts. According to BLM, broken windows policing is being arrested for breaking laws such as the consumption of alcohol in a public place, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, trespassing, loitering, disturbing the peace, spitting, jaywalking, and bicycling on the sidewalk. Black Lives Matter wishes to repeal these laws due to the fact that they believe that it does not cause any harm to themselves or anyone around them. Community oversight includes making sure that when there is a complaint about an officer, that the complaint will be reviewed and that there will be disciplinary action for the officer in question. When it comes to limiting force, BLM believes that the use of deadly force should only be used when the life of the officer or any other person is in imminent danger. Due to the distrust for the police force, Black Lives Matter wants for the families of victims of crime to be able to privately investigate and prosecute cases without the aid of police. They would also like to have a demilitarization of the police. In recent years, police have brought out SWAT teams and used semiautomatic weapons and tear gas against people in BLM protests. They would also like to have fair police union contracts due to the fact that not many police officers were reprimanded after having complaints against them or they received paid leave when a situation happen, like Ferguson, that prevented them continuing to serve in the line of duty.
The structure of the movement can be hard to understand because many of the supporters of this movement have gone out and said that the police are the problem in America. They demonize the very people who are sworn in to protect them and make sure that their communities are safe. Many critics of the movement also do not understand why the supporters say that it is a peaceful movement when every time there is a justified shooting between a police officer and Black man, there is a riot in the city. The supporters tend to destroy private property during these riots and then turn around and say that their movement is a peaceful one. The movement also demonizes not just the police, but also white people. When a movement demonizes a majority of the population in the country, it does not end well. There are white people who actually consider themselves as allies of the movement but then are treated like they are racist bigots due to their skin color. Some may even say that BLM even segregates the country by making it a black versus white argument instead of an anti-racism versus racism argument. Also, many people say that the shootings between officers and many of the martyrs of the movement have been justified over and over again.
One big example of this is when Darren Wilson had killed Michael Brown. Many had found this to be a justified shooting because of the fact that Michael Brown had been involved in violent robbery before the interaction with Wilson. When Wilson confronted Brown, Brown made the confrontation violent by trying to take Wilson’s gun and use it against Wilson. This caused Wilson to justifiably shoot Michael and in turn kill him. Wilson had feared for his life, but when witnesses were asked about what had occurred, many of them lied and said that Brown had tried to run away with his hands up from a rogue police officer. The saying “hands up, don’t shoot” became immortalized by these lies that were later debunked by the forensic analysis done to determine the cause of Michael Brown’s death. The analysis was completely disregarded by BLM and is still being used to this day as a chant to demonize the police.
Not only is the Michael Brown case used to demonize police, but many other cases of justified use of force by the police to people of the black community that break the law. There have been cases where black men were stopped by the police and instead of complying with them, black men disregard what they are being told by the police and instead pull out a gun and threaten the lives of police. Then when they are shot and possibly killed, the movement comes out and riots emerge in the cities where the shootings happen. There have many cases where people from other states come in and join the riots and in destroying the private property of the cities. There are also chants that are used by the movement that many say are controversial because of the way they portray the police force. One well-known chant, “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon”, shows that the movement compares police officers to pigs. The founders of the movement never denounced any the people who participated in shouting those chants during BLM events.
Not only is demonizing the police a problem that people have with the movement, but also many people do not like the fact that somehow, the movement will find a way to make everything about themselves. One example was when the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in June of 2016. During a memorial for those who lost their lives in the shooting at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Missouri, a Black Lives matter protester decided to take it upon herself to try and make the tragedy about how Black people were being discriminated against. This did not go well with the LGBTQ community because the shooting took place in a gay nightclub and most of the victims were Hispanic and not Black.
Supporters of the movement agree that it gives them a feeling of liberation and that their voice counts. When there is a Black president who condones the actions of the movement, it gives them a feeling of reassurance that there will be positive change for the community. The movement has even helped give black people the courage and the knowledge to know that they have a right to vote for anyone that they would like to be in office. This movement helped bring up the rate of black voters across the nation by educating those who don’t normally vote that they can voice their opinions by casting a ballot with those they agree with.
Also, BLM can help with police reform by trying to work with the police force and to share their grievances with how the police force is working in today’s day and age. One thing that supporters and critics can agree on is that this Country’s police force is not perfect and needs improvement. Throughout this Country’s history, Black people did not believe that the police were working towards helping them because throughout the majority of the 20thcentury the police upheld Jim Crow Laws. These laws made segregation legal and when people peacefully protested those laws, the police force would come out and either arrest them or worse. A famous example of the latter was in Birmingham, Alabama, when Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connor, instructed the police to hose down peaceful protesters of the Jim Crow Laws.
The effect of this event is still being felt to this day by the Black community. This is why race relations between the police and the Black community are such an important factor in the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed over 50 years ago, many people in the Black community still feel as though they are not being treated in the way that they should be. They feel as though their human rights are being deprived and that they have a target on their backs. They feel as though their skin color defines them as a person in society when it should be their achievements. The movement wants to make Black voices be heard loud and clear and wants the problems in their community to be fixed.