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Black Lives Matter

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When people say black lives matter, it does not mean blue lives don’t matter. All lives matter. But the big concern is that the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens and we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it.
Barack Obama[1]

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a grassroots human rights activist movement and Twitter hashtag that began in July 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The movement gained momentum in 2014 following the killings of Michael Brown, John Crawford III and Eric Garner. BLM leaders have met with prominent leaders such as The Kenyan Marxist and have staged many protests in the aftermath of those killings, notably the mass protests in Ferguson, Missouri and an uprising in Baltimore, Maryland.

BLM has encountered harsh opposition from conservative groups in the United States and other run of the mill racists.[2][3] This usually takes the form of loaded questions such as "Why not 'All Lives Matter'?", a move that reveals a profound ignorance of the central message of BLM: when it comes to the police, black lives don't always matter while white lives generally do.[4]

The Founding Mothers[edit]

The movement was founded by three women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, who were members of BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity).

  • Alicia GarzaWikipedia: a community organizer who currently is the Special Projects Director of the National Domestic.
  • Patrisse CullorsWikipedia: a Los Angeles, California artist and playwright, she was kicked out of her home when she came out as queer.[5] She was largely inspired by the brutalization of her then 19-year old brother in a LA county jail. She's also influential in the movement's extensive use of social media to bring awareness to police brutality.
  • Opal TometiWikipedia: a Nigerian immigrant who arrived at the USA in 1983. She's the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

Though it should be noted that as a - by its very nature - largely "leaderless" movement, many people using the hashtag and going to rallies may not be familiar with the founders or their positions on other issues. Just like many people calling themselves "Anonymous" don't necessarily support - or know about - the entirety of issues Anonymous cares about. The fact that black lives matter, however, is consensus among all who consider themselves part of the movement, for obvious reasons.


In general, BLM supporters believe that the right to due process includes black people, and that killing an innocent black person is bad.

Support for Palestinians and BDS[edit]

Given the leaderless nature of BLM, it is difficult to make blanket statements about what the movement supports outside of its core mission of exposing and resisting police violence. That said, BLM has reflected the historical tendency of African-American activists to support Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.[6] Prominent BLM activists have come out in support of the BDSWikipedia movement: Patrisse Cullors -- along with a thousand other black activists[7] -- was a signatory of a 2015 letter "reaffirm[ing] solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine's land and people".[8] The statement calls for "black and U.S. institutions to support the Palestinian call for boycotts of Israel" and declares that "refugees' right to returnWikipedia to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians".

Moreover, Washington Post columnist Colbert King links the growing support for Palestinians in the BLM movement with what is perceived as an insulting behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toward US President Barack Obama. Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice, is reported to have said that Netanyahu has done everything except “use ‘the N-word’ in describing the president.”[9] Even The Jerusalem Post has noted that Netanyahu has "burned bridges" with American blacks, including the Congressional Black Caucus.[10]

In October 2015, a Black-Palestinian solidarity video featuring musician Lauryn Hill, actor Danny Glover, Palestinian BDS founder Omar Barghouti and other black and Palestinian activists trended at #1 on Facebook. The video's theme is "When I see them, I see us."[11]

During the uprising in Ferguson, Palestinians took to the Internet to show their own support for African-American protestors, tweeting advice on how to deal with tear gas and other crowd-control methods used by police.[12]

On August 1, the Black Lives Matter Coalition published a manifesto in which it called Israel an apartheid state and accused it of committing genocide against the Palestinian people.[13]

Stance on the 2016 Presidential race[edit]

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted events of all Democratic candidates (including irrelevant ones)[14][15] but none of Republicans. Bit by bit Sanders and Clinton (mostly) came around to the goals of the movement, though Clinton still disagrees with the means and proposes a more compromise based approach.[16][17]

Still some BLM activists have expressed their anti-Semitism against Sanders with dog whistles, even though he is more pro-Palestinian than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.[18]

Spreading the message[edit]

BLM has spread outside the US.[19] For example, the Ethiopian JewsWikipedia in Israel who - or whose ancestors - were airlifted to that country during Operation SolomonWikipedia by the Israeli government, now engage in BLM protests against racism and police brutality in that country.[20] The UK has also seen the BLM movement expand there.[21] It has spread to include the transgender black community as well.[22] Native Americans have adopted the slogan as "#NativeLivesMatter"[23], but a Latino counterpart has been slow to organize.[24] In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte's police can carry out bulk extrajudicial murder without too much international outcry, because it can become difficult instinctively to frame such killings in the terms of a familiar debate about racism.

Government hostility and surveillance[edit]

Just as the FBI targeted 1960s civil rights activists during the COINTELPRO era, so too does the government today undertake surveillance of BLM activists, and no doubt compiles dossiers on many of them. The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri over the cop shooting of Michael Brown. DHS collects information, including location data, on BLM activities from public social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Vine.[25]

The NYPD is using undercover officers in "monitor[ing BLM] activists, tracking their movements and keeping individual photos of them on file." [26] Moreover:

The Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metro-North Railroad, reveal more on-the-ground surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists...conducted by a coalition of MTA counterterrorism agents and undercover police in conjunction with NYPD intelligence officers.

...[documents reveal] undercover police officers, reporting on group sizes, and the tracking of protesters’ movements around the city, particularly the movements of New York’s “People’s Monday” protests, which focus attention on, and demonstrate on behalf of, victims of police brutality, and which repeatedly convene at Grand Central. Some of the reports go further than tracking group movements, however, referring to specific activists and including photos of them....

In another document from a December 7 protest for Eric Garner, Detective Keyla Hammam, ...shared a photo of prominent activist and former Philadelphia police officer Ray Lewis. An undercover police officer made an entry accompanying Hammam’s photo, mentioning Lewis’ past activities with Occupy Wall Street and stating: “A retired Philadelphia Police Officer in uniform is one of the protesters at Grand Central Terminal. He is also known to NYPD as a protestor in OWS and has an arrest record with NYPD.”

Additionally, the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice has secretly surveilled Oregonians who use the Black Lives Matter hashtag on Twitter -- including the state’s director of civil rights, Erious Johnson. It is unconstitutional, and therefore illegal, for the government to target individuals based on exercising their First Amendment free speech rights. As the ACLU puts it: "The simple act of expressing concern about racial justice on social media should not be enough to trigger information gathering by the Oregon Department of Justice."[27]

Repression in spaces that used to be public[edit]

Historically, downtown areas and public parks have been venues for robust First Amendment activity and protests. But, in an era of increasing privatization, public areas have been greatly diminished. This has allowed private entities to prohibit protests that would have occurred in prior times. The distinction between a private area and a public area can be unclear, as it is with the Mall of America, just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. Taxpayers coughed up $186 million of the mall's $886 million cost, yet, in the case of State v. Wicklund, Minnesota's conclusion was that,

...Under the circumstances here neither the presence of public financing alone nor the public financing coupled with an invitation to the public to come onto the property is sufficient to transform privately-owned property into public property for purposes of state action.[28]

Or basically, "Yeah, they took 186 million from the general public, but you still can't do anything there."
(For most purposes, the constitutional protection of freedom of speech does not restrain private entities from abridging speech.)

BLM has sought many times to hold protests at the Mall of America, the largest mall in the U.S. A December 23, 2015 protest over the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark was planned, but Mall management had the location "locked down" and the protesters had no sooner entered than they were led away by a throng of cops.[29] Moreover:

[M]all attorneys won restraining orders against three protest organizers, even as they lost a more ambitious bid to force Black Lives Matter Minneapolis to take down all mentions of the protest on social media and to declare the demonstration cancelled...

Mall of America’s ability to so zealously suppress the December 23 protest there highlights how, in a nation where more and more public life takes place in privatized spaces, the ability to exercise First Amendment rights has become increasingly contingent...

“In the eyes of the law, those spaces for speech can be shut down and subject to arbitrary censorship in ways that the public square cannot,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota...."

Spokespersons for the Mall paid lip service to respecting free speech rights, but stated, "the courts have affirmed our right as private property owners to prohibit demonstrations on our property.”

Smear tactics[edit]

Law enforcement members and multiple media outlets tried to pin several shooting deaths of members of law enforcement on BLM and the so-called “war on cops" the movement purportedly has caused. But it turned out that, contrary to early reporting, Fox Lake, Illinois police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz killed himself, and Houston Dep. Darren Goforth was murdered by a mentally ill man who had previously almost killed a guy during an argument over what to watch on TV.[30]

The Edward R. Murrows RWNJs at Fox "News" have variously called BLM: "terrorists," "an extreme group, the Nazi Party," "like the Ku Klux Klan," "garbage," and, of course, "divisive." This crew also hosted a law enforcement officer who announced: "there is no police brutality in the United States."[31] If that's not enough, they are constantly tied into the horrifying conspiracy theories surrounding antifascist militias, despite the extremely varying ties between those groups and BLM.


BLM's opponents have made vicious threats and personal attacks against some of the more prominent speakers of the movement. DeRay McKesson has been attacked for his opposition to the Confederate flag in South Carolina subsequent to Dylann Roof's racism-fueled murder of black people in their church.[32] Shaun King was accused of lying about his racial background by Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos (of Gamergate infamy) who "revealed" that King's birth certificate said both his parents were white and compared him to Rachel Dolezal, forcing King to reveal his mother had an affair with a black man who is his actual biological father.[33][34]

"All Lives Matter"?[edit]

Yes, all lives matter but we are focused on the black ones because it is very apparent that our judicial system does not know this.
—BLM placard[35]

Many have countered with "All lives matter." The problem is neatly illustrated by a Reddit user:

Imagine that you're sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say "I should get my fair share." And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, "everyone should get their fair share." Now, that's a wonderful sentiment -- indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad's smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn't solve the problem that you still haven't gotten any!

The problem is that the statement "I should get my fair share" had an implicit "too" at the end: "I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else." But your dad's response treated your statement as though you meant "only I should get my fair share", which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that "everyone should get their fair share," while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.[...]

[...]Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase "black lives matter" also has an implicit "too" at the end: it's saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying "all lives matter" is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It's a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means "only black lives matter," when that is obviously not the case. And so saying "all lives matter" as a direct response to "black lives matter" is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem. It all goes back to the unspoken rules of spoken English.


On Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill Maher expressed support of the "Black Lives Matter" phrase, arguing that "All Lives Matter" "implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they're not".[37]

All Lives Matter is also a white supremacist dogwhistle.[38] Although it may seem innocuous (who doesn't think that all lives matter?) it's used by white supremacists to delegitimize the concerns of black people.

Hate Group "Evidence"[edit]

Like most of history's revolutionary movements, BLM is not without its extremists, although those who have committed acts of violence, which goes against the ethos of the movement itself, are generally outnumbered by those who seek to commit themselves to actual activism. Such crimes are not what Black Lives Matter, on an ethical and organizational level, are about.


At a Dallas march in 2016, a member of the movement shot and killed six police officers. As reactionaries and right-wing keyboard warriors started cranking out their sensationalized stories about how BLM are a bunch of terrorists, the group leaders spoke out publicly and reasonably stated that it would be unfair to blame an entire movement of people on the actions of a messed-up individual.[39] There's a huge difference between thinking "police should stop murdering innocent people and trying to cover it up" and "police officers should die."


Later in 2016, several black-American teenagers kidnapped an autistic young man after assuming, for some reason, that he was a supporter of the United States' current reigning monarch. Causing him physical torment and saying racially charged things towards him, they recorded a video of them doing so. There were consistent suggestions by multiple parties suggesting that they were a part of the movement, and so the internet, like always, sensationalized the whole thing and started calling BLM a hate group.

It was never confirmed if the assailants were part of the organization or not, as their behaviors clearly do not align themselves with the ethics of the cause, but BLM leadership made sure to denounce them if they were, proclaiming that there was no place for violence or hate crimes in the activist movement, as it completely contradicts its entire purpose.[40] Any violent wings it and other groups may have are fringe at most. It is, first and foremost, a civil organization with a cause. It is confrontational, which provides a healthy mean between overtly pacifistic and, at the other end, violent. In other words, Aristotle would be thrilled.


Thanks to the success of Black Lives Matter, there have been groups that have attempted to emulate the movement, including the following:

  • Blue Lives Matter: Founded in 2014. Blue Lives Matter was founded as a counter-movement to Black Lives Matter after two NYPD officers (Raphael Ramos and Wenjian Liu) were killed in Brooklyn, New York. Blue Lives Matter is about raising awareness about police officers getting killed. The movement's flag is a black and white flag version of the United States flag with a blue stripe. Most notably, Blue Lives Matter was responsible for a state law in Louisiana which makes targeting police officers or firefighters illegal. This was widely criticized by organizations such as the ACLU.[41]
  • White Lives Matter: A white nationalist version of Black Lives Matter, because of course. According to the SPLC, White Lives Matter was founded in 2015 by two white people, Rebecca Barnette and Kevin Harris thanks in no small part to the Neo-Nazi organization Aryan Renaissance Society.[42] White Lives Matter has become a slogan for white nationalists and neo-Nazis found in events such as Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia (and chanted in combination with "Black Lives Splatter") and the "White Lives Matter" rally in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Another variant of White Lives Matter is the idea of a White Student Union.[note 1][43]

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]


  1. One of which was founded by Traditionalist Worker Party leader Matthew Heimbach.


  4. Jacqueline Howard, Black men nearly 3 times as likely to die from police use of force, study says, CNN
  6. Kristian Davis Bailey, "Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter & Ferguson Reps Take Historic Trip to Palestine", Ebony
  8. David Palumbo-Liu, "Black activists send clear message to Palestinians: “Now is the time for Palestinian liberation, just as now is the time for our own in the United States”", Salon
  9. Colbert King, "When ‘Black Lives Matter’ is linked with ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’", Washington Post, November 6, 2015.
  10. Staff, "'Netanyahu has burned his bridges with Black Democrats'", The Jerusalem Post
  11. Ben Norton, "“Your walls will never cage our freedom”: Black-Palestinian solidarity video goes viral", Salon
  12. Mark Molloy and Agencies, "Palestinians tweet tear gas advice to protesters in Ferguson", The Telegraph
  13. Chloe, Valdery (August 4, 2016). "Black Lives Matter's Jewish Problem Is Also a Black Problem". Tablet.
  14. "‘Hell You Talmbout!’ #BlackLivesMatter Protesters Shout Down Hillary at Campaign Event". Mediaite. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  15. "Black Lives Matter Protesters Disrupt Clinton Campaign Event In Atlanta". BuzzFeed. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  16., The Washington Times. "Hillary Clinton declares ‘black lives matter’". Washington Times. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  17. "Watch: Full Video of Hillary Clinton's Meeting with Black Lives Matter Activists". Democracy Now!. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  18. See Bernie Sanders#But he's a Jew! He can't be pro-Palestine!
  19. Janaya Khan, "Black Lives Matter Has Become a Global Movement", The Root
  20. Andrew Freedman, "Thousands rally in Israel against racism and police brutality toward Ethiopian Jews", Mashable
  22. Rebecca Ruiz, "Black Lives Matter rallies for transgender women after multiple murders this year so far", Mashable
  30. Radley Balko, "A partial list of pundits, politicians and media outlets who used Joseph Gliniewicz’s death to push the ‘war on cops’ narrative", The Washington Post
  31. Brennan Suen, "From "Hate Group" To "Nazis": Fox News Ramps Up Their War On Black Lives Matter", Media Matters fo America
  32. Joanna Walters, "Conservative Twitter trolls attack activist DeRay McKesson after Charleston appearances", Raw Story
  33. Wesley Lowery and Michael E. Miller, "Activist Shaun King says man on birth certificate isn’t his biological father", The Washington Post
  34. Shaun King, "Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story", Daily Kos
  36. "GeekAesthete", "ELI5: Why is it so controversial when someone says "All Lives Matter" instead of "Black Lives Matter"?", Reddit
  37. Real Time with Bill Maher: Hashtags vs. Legislation
  42. [1]