Black Lives Matter is a movement, mainly based out of the USA, that began, in 2013, with a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) as a sign of protest against the acquittal of George Zimmerman, member of neighbourhood watch, who claimed that he shot and killed African American teen, Trayvon Martin, in self-defence. Black Lives Matter is an international human rights movement that focuses on campaigns against violence, racial profiling, police brutality and racism against the Black community.
Trayvon Martin was visiting his Father’s fiancée’s house at her townhouse in Sanford, Florida and was returning to her house from a convenience store when Zimmerman stopped him and reported him to the police as suspicious. Within some time, there was an altercation between the two and Zimmerman was mildly injured while Trayvon was shot fatally in the chest by Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed that he shot Trayvon in self-defence, and police agreed with this story and did not press charges as Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law didn’t allow them to press any charges or arrest him. This led to many rallies and protests in support of Trayvon while an online petition calling for full investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman raised 2.2 million signatures. All of this gained a lot of media attention which eventually led to Zimmerman being charged and tried. But this was all in vain as Zimmerman was acquitted of the second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The Birth of the Movement
After the acquittal of Zimmerman, there was an air of unrest in the country, a lot of the leaders representing the Black community felt like this was a major failure. Amongst the leaders were Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who were introduced to each other through ‘Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity”, Bold. In a response to the situation of Zimmerman and Trayvon, Garza wrote on Facebook, a post ‘A Love Note to Black People’, in which the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ were first introduced. To her post, Cullors replied ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ and the hashtag movement was born.
Their main focus is on the local groups rather than a centralized national leadership. There are many small leaders that form their own protests with the same moto and agenda of achieving racial justice. As their site says, they see themselves as a Global Black Family.
Incidents that gave fire and reason to the movement
Michael Brown Jr.
In 2014, while the matter of Trayvon was still in the heat, there came another incident of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old who was shot six times by Ferguson Police Officer, Darren Wilson. Michael was along with his friend Dorian Johnson when this altercation took place. Johnson and Wilson have different versions of the event.
According to Wilson, Michael started the altercation by attacking Wilson while he was in his car. Wilson stated that Michael tried to take control of Wilson’s gun which led to Wilson firing the initial gunshot. After this, Wilson said that Michael and Johnson started running away from the vehicle, and Wilson started pursuing them soon after. After a short pursuit, Wilson said, Michael stopped and charged towards him which led to a total of 12 bullets being fired out of which 6 hit Michael.
Johnson, on the other hand, claimed that Wilson initiated the altercation, he grabbed Michael by the neck, threatened him and even shot at him, without hitting Michael. After which Both, Michael and Johnson fled, and Wilson began the pursuit short after. Johnson said that Michael stopped and turned around with his hands raised in the air, after which Wilson shot Michael multiple times, till he fell to the ground.
Multiple witness accounts supported Wilson’s testimony, and the witnesses that supported Johnson’s account fell through. But this didn’t matter as the protests had begun, and Michael was just one incident that sparked the outrage that had been growing over the years of racial discrimination of the Police against the black community.
Dontre Hamilton, had a history of mental illness and had been treated for Schizophrenia, was sleeping in a park and the police were called in at the location. Two officers responded and found nothing wrong, but after that officer Manney arrived, who was not aware of the previous visit from the other officers. Manney began to pat down Hamilton and Hamilton fought him leading to a confrontation. Hamilton took control of Manney’s baton and hit Manney on the side of his neck. This altercation finally resulted in office Manney shooting Hamilton 14 times and killing him.
Manney was fired from his post and the lawsuit led to Hamilton family receiving $2.3 Million in settlement from the city of Milwaukee.
Eric Garner was approached by NYPD officers on suspicion of selling single cigarettes from the packs without a tax stamp. Garner refused this claim and said he was tired of the harassment. Officer Pantaleo tried to arrest him but Garner did not corporate which led to officers pushing Garner to the ground and grabbing him by his neck. In the video that came forward, it can be seen that Garner said repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe 11 times. After Garner lost consciousness, Officers places on the side to ease his breathing and waited for the ambulance to arrive. But it was of no help as Garner was pronounced dead an hour later at an area hospital.
John Crawford III
John was inside a store’s sporting goods section when he picked up an unpackaged BB gun (pellet air rifle) and continued to shop while holding it in his hand and talking on the phone. One of the other members within the store contacted the police saying that there was an armed man in the store pointing the gun at people, which technically never happened. The police arrived and shot the armed (armed with BB gun) man. The city of Beavercreek would settle the lawsuit with a settlement of $1.7 million.
A 7 medals awardee from US Air Force, Anthony Hill, suffered from mental illness, was naked and unarmed when he was running across apartment complex. He was knocking on the doors asking for his medicine, this is when a woman called for 911 for medical help. When the officers arrived they found him in the parking lot. They ordered Hill to stay where he was, but unable to comply with it, Hill moved towards the officer, unarmed and naked. This is where the officers shot Hill.
Freddie was arrested and charged with possession of a knife. While being transported in a police van, he fell into a coma and subsequently died in a couple of days. Eye-witness claimed unnecessary use of force during his arrest, though this claim was denied by all the officers involved, yet the city of Baltimore settled at $6.4 million.
There are many such gruesome stories, that gave fire to the Black Lives Matter movement, the last at the time of writing this article was that of George Floyd. He was suspected of passing counterfeit $20 bills in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He succumbed to the way the officers behaved during his arrest. Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against George’s neck while he was on the ground handcuffed. Two more officers were there restraining him while the fourth officer was keeping the crowd from helping George. The pressing on the neck continued for 9 minutes, and the end even when there was no motion or pulse on George’s end, the knee on the neck was not removed.
During each of such events, many that haven’t been mentioned in the article, the public outrage continued to grow. Every occurrence led to protests and many empty apologies from the government. The last police brutality of George Floyd has caused protests across the globe, and the USA is seeing one of the worst sights of protests. In some locations, the protests have even gotten violent with acts of police brutality. Many places have a curfew in effect. Even the hacktivist Anonymous have joined in to warn police. Internationally, countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom have seen protests supporting Black Lives Matter Movement.
All Lives Matter
In retaliation to Black Lives Matter, the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ has been used. Their vision seems to be that a racial group cannot receive special treatment and that every life matters and that there is no racial component to the killings. These groups do not understand that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not to say that only black lives matter but rather that the racial profiling and brutality that this particular community faces represent the mindset that black lives don’t matter and that is a big problem.
I think this is a very important movement in our modern history, this comes from the most advanced country in our generation and that speaks volumes about the state of our world. The fact that the first world countries have these problems and justice in these countries means that soon, similar problems in developing worlds will also be the target of similar movements. Just as it took the first world countries to be the first to tackle the issues of LGBTQ community, police brutality against specific communities will be the next target for many other countries too. Lead the way my first world friends, we really do want to follow your steps.
As always, Thanks for Reading.