Black Lives Matter movements grow as police brutality increases

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“All Black Lives Matter” is written on the streets in the colors of the transgender flag, non-binary flag and the overall flag of the LGBTQ+ community.

Fabiola Figueroa Aguyao, Sports Editor

The Black Lives Matter movement has been revived as more and more police shootings occur across the country. Thousands of protestors across the United States have flooded the streets, frustrated with the way Black Americans are being treated by the police. George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor and many other names have been at the center of these protests as many believe that their deaths were unjustified and cruel. This rekindled fire has taken hold of the American public; politically it has been the talking point of many debates causing tensions between opposing parties. On the streets where people are protesting, scuffles with the police have become a frequent occurrence. On social media, people, influencers, celebrities and others are using whatever platforms they have to voice their opinions as well as spread information on the latest news of the protests and the BLM movement.

This new surge of protests began late on May 26 after the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was arrested by white police officer Derek Chauvin because of a suspected $20 counterfeit bill. In a now infamous video, Chauvin is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck after being pinned to the ground, keeping his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd became unresponsive after six minutes and was sent to the hospital where he later passed away.

The video spread like wildfire on social media and prompted old sentiments of racial injustice and police brutality for many African-Americans. The phrase “I can’t breathe,” the words Floyd repeated to Chauvin before passing, was chanted in the streets of Minneapolis where demonstrations began the next day. The four officers who were present at the time of Floyd’s arrest, Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were fired and later charged but by that point, the movement had already escalated. Only two days after Floyd’s passing, protestors and police came to blows. Surrounding Minneapolis’ third precinct police station, protestors were continuing to chant Floyd’s last words as well as, “No justice, no peace.” Others began to vandalize police cars and graffiti the walls of the police station before police used tear gas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades to subdue the crowds. This event marked a deep divide between police and Americans demanding that justice ensue.

The BLM movement has been at the forefront of these rallying demands for change since the protests began, but originally the cause had started years prior to the Minneapolis protests. Created by Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, the movement actually started as a hashtag that was created after George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was walking home from a convenience store, was acquitted in 2013. The hashtag, originally produced by Garza and her friend Cullors, slowly but surely gained popularity in the following years and spiked every time a police shooting resulted in the death of a black person.

“Black people, I love you. I love us. And that our lives matter. And that we matter. And that Black lives matter,” Garza, in her original Facebook post, said.

In late June and early August after the deaths of Eric Garner, who died of a police chokehold and Michael Brown who was fatally shot, protests began to form under the Black Lives Matter banner, securing its role not just as a hashtag but a rallying cry for millions. The Black Lives Matter movement was well known by 2015, as it continued to spread its message of justice for black people across the United States, however the year 2016 saw the movement explode into something much bigger.

That year saw many tragedies that increased the racial turmoil in America. Two videos capturing 37-year-old Alton Sterling being pinned and shot five times in the chest by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the recorded killing of Philando Castile by police in Minnesota were both catalysts for the hundreds of protests across the states and around the world that would emerge. From Europe to Africa, millions protested in solidarity for the victims of police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement became a national organization supported by multiple countries who were inspired by its mantra. France, England, Brazil, Australia, Canada and South Africa joined in the protests, some asking for justice for the victims in the US and others chanting the names of victims that hit closer to home. Fania Noel, the coordinator of Black Lives Matter France, spoke with BuzzFeed News about the movement in the US and the differences she saw in France.

“When we started the hashtag on social media, we wanted to also denounce the hypocrisy in France…French media are able to see colors in other countries and write in a story headline that a black person was killed by the police in the U.S., but they are not able to do that in France,” Noel said.

Other coalitions like Black Lives Matter United Kingdom also shared similar sympathies.

“We should be talking about anti-blackness in our own context because anti-blackness is not an America-specific phenomenon — it’s global,” Imani Robinson, a 24-year-old from London who was part of the BLM U.K. network at the time, said.

This global protest would repeat itself again in 2020, even amid a pandemic and seemingly with even more numbers and even more ferocity in the protests. Particularly in the US, there were major tensions between police and protestors after looting and rioting occurred in the first demonstrations in Minneapolis. Afterwards, more protests spiked across the nation in Memphis, Tennessee over Floyd and in Louisville, Kentucky, people protested the death of Taylor, an EMT who was shot and killed in her home by police in a botched drug raid. Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia was killed by two white residents while going on a jog. In an interview with The New Yorker, Tometi, one of the three women who helped organize the Black Lives Matter movement as well as several other black-led organizations, spoke out on how the protests of 2020 are different from past protests seeking justice for African-Americans.

“We have millions of people who have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment and are living paycheck to paycheck and hand to mouth…And so, my belief and my view of these protests is that they are different because they are marked by a period that has been deeply personal to millions of Americans and residents of the United States, and that has them more tender or sensitive to what is going on,” Tometi said.

The protests would continue to spread and police clashings would continue to intensify. Atlanta and New York saw hundreds of protestors walk the streets, some throwing debris at police who reciprocated with arrests, some with violence towards the protestors. Curfews and National Guard troops were installed in multiple cities. In the White House, President Donald Trump criticized the protestors calling them “thugs” and tweeting “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The country was definitively divided, groups like All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter who defiantly went against the BLM movement, criticized protestors for violently protesting the police. One resident of Brooklyn, New York City, Diane Atkins, who supported the Blue Lives Matter movement, spoke with the Deccan Herald, a local New York City paper, about the protests and the demonstrations pro-police groups have been holding in response to BLM.

“We wanted to stand up for our police officers…These are everyday New Yorkers who could be your friends, family and neighbors,” Atkins said.

Some police officers kneeled with the protestors, contrasting the many images of violence between the groups.

“People are upset, they’re angry, they’re scared, and I get it…. They want to be heard.” Atlanta Police Chief, Erika Shields, said.

Even months later, people are continuing to advocate for change. The latest protests continued through late September following the grand jury decision on Taylor’s case to charge only one officer for shooting into a neighboring apartment. The Kentucky grand jury indicted former detective Brett Hankinson who was fired in June, on three felony charges of unjustifiable endangerment. However, the two other officers involved, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not charged for the incident.

What comes next for the Black Lives Matter movement remains unknown but they will surely continue to protest the injustices they see.

“Today, and for all the days to come, we will continue to demand justice, seek accountability, and fight for real change…The kind of change our city truly needs will only be possible when we fully invest in our people and divest from and defund the police,” BLM, in a group statement, said.