If you were to tune in to any news channel right now, you’d see hordes of American protestors marching in the streets, looters destroying stores, and police officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors.
If the name George Floyd is unfamiliar to you, you might think that these Americans are protesting their right to have a haircut after stay-at-home orders were imposed on them.
That was what they were protesting a few weeks ago, but things have changed a little since then.
Even though the country has 1,901,783, infections and 109,142 deaths – the highest in the world – no one is talking about Covid-19 in America right now.
And it’s all because of one incident – the brutal murder of an unarmed black man named George Floyd by a police officer.
A video of the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes until he died circulated on social media, sparking outrage among Americans, especially the black community, because it follows a long history of police brutality against black Americans.
Protests erupted all over the country, with many shouting one simple but powerful phrase:
“Black Lives Matter”.
So, what exactly is the #BlackLivesMatter movement all about, and what do protestors want?
Here are 10 facts about #BlackLivesMatter, the movement’s that everyone’s talking about right now:
1. It Was Founded In 2013 After The Acquittal Of A Black Man’s Murderer
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international human rights movement originating in the African-American community that protests and fights against violence and systemic racism towards black people.
It was founded in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager.
According to VOAnews, Martin was walking from a convenience store to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, who was a self-proclaimed neighbourhood watchman, called the police and said that there was “a real suspicious guy” who was “up to no good”, even though Martin wasn’t doing anything.
Later, Zimmerman followed Martin, even though the police said he didn’t need to do that, and a violent confrontation ensued. Zimmerman ended up fatally shooting Martin at close range.
When Zimmerman was later acquitted, Alicia Garza, co-founder of the movement shared a post on Facebook saying “black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”
Co-founder Patrisse Cullors followed her post with the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, and it started trending on social media.
2. It Became Nationally Recognized After Two More Deaths Of African-Americans in 2014
The movement only became nationally recognized for protests after the deaths of two African-Americans – Michael Brown and Eric Gardner in 2014.
43-year-old Eric Garner died after a New York City Police Department officer put him in a chokehold while arresting him.
18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.
The movement gained nationwide attention after protestors invoked the BLM slogan during demonstrations.
3. Its Mission Is To Eradicate White Supremacy
According to the Black Lives Matter website, the aim of the movement is to eradicate white supremacy.
In order to achieve this, the movement seeks to “build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”
“By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”
4. It’s an International Movement
While the movement is largely associated with the fight against systemic racism in America, activists around the world have rallied behind the movement to protest racism in their own countries.
In 2015, BLM protestors in Toronto, Canada, demonstrated against the fatal shooting of two black men at the hands of police officers.
Similar demonstrations have been seen in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
5. It Doesn’t Mean That Other Lives Don’t Matter
In reaction to the BLM, movement, critics started the “All Lives Matter” movement, arguing that the name “Black Lives Matter” implies that other lives don’t matter.
What these critics fail to realise is that proponents of the BLM movement aren’t saying that other lives don’t matter.
They are simply proclaiming that black lives matter, meaning that they should matter, because of all the African-Americans that have been killed at the hands of white Americans, especially police officers.
As Columbia Law Professor Kimberle Crenshaw explains, saying black lives matter “is simply aspirational”.
6. There is Evidence To Back The BLM Movement’s Claims
The whole reason why the BLM movement started was to protest police brutality against black people.
But are black people in America really targetted more than white people?
In a word, yes.
According to Al Jazeera, police in the United States killed 7,666 people between 2013 and 2019.
Despite only making up 13 per cent of the US population, Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police.
The Washington Post also wrote an extensive article compiling mounds of evidence that shows that the criminal justice system in America is racist.
7. It’s Not Just About Police Brutality
While the movement was founded to combat police brutality, BLM’s agenda is to fight oppression against black people in all areas of life, whether it’s economic disparity, social discrimination, or educational reform.
In 2016, BLM released a list of their policy demands in accordance with 60 organizations affiliated with the movements. These demands included decarceration in the United States, reparations for slavery in the United States, and empowering residents in communities of colour to hire and fire police officers, among other things.
8. The Movement Was Reignited By George Floyd’s Death
While the BLM movement has been invoked at several protests against African-American killings since its founding, the nationwide protests we’re seeing now after the murder of 46-year-old George Floyd is the most aggressive and widespread in decades.
Tens of thousands of Americans from different states are taking to the streets to make known their disapproval of police treatment of black citizens.
So, what started it all?
On 25 May, a convenience store employee in Minneapolis called the police alleging that an African-American man – George Floyd – had used a fake $20 note to buy some cigarettes.
Several minutes later, police officers arrived and located Floyd, who was in a car. After approaching the car, one of the officers pulled his gun out and ordered Floyd to show his hands.
The officers then reportedly struggled to put Floyd in the police car.
Another office, Derek Chauvin, who arrived sometime after, pulled Floyd out of the car and pushed him onto the floor.
Chavin then knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. Two other officers knelt on the 43-year-old man’s body as well.
Despite Floyd saying “I can’t breathe,” repeatedly, Chauvin and the other officers persisted.
Six minutes later, Floyd became unresponsive. An ambulance arrived and he was later pronounced dead.
An autopsy showed that he died of asphyxiation.
A bystander who recorded the horrific death uploaded it online, and it soon spread all over social media.
9. Many Celebrities Have Supported The Movement
Several celebrities have shared posts on social media denouncing the murder and proclaimed their support for the BLM movement.
Some celebrities even joined the protestors on the streets, including Ariana Grande, Nick Cannon, and Halsey.
Ariana Grande is one of the biggest artists in the world. Not only did she use her platform to express her anger and pain towards what’s going on she also participated in the streets with the rest of the protesters 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 pic.twitter.com/XWgayEgfTV
— anth (@anthspears) May 31, 2020
Other celebrities donated to the movement, including The The Weeknd who gave US$200,000 to Black Lives Matter Global Network.
10. The Protests Will Probably Not Stop Until Something Changes
The reason why protestors have been persistently and furiously protesting for more than a week is that they want police officers to be accountable for their actions, among other things.
Many other black people have died at the hands of police officers who have got away scot-free over the years.
The protests have already achieved one of its major aims: getting justice for Floyd’s family.
The office who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, had his charge upgraded on Wednesday (3 June) to the more serious second-degree murder, while the three other officers who were at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
But these protests will likely not stop until real changes are made to ensure that all police officers are accountable for their actions and that black people can feel safe out on the streets again.
America has seen this kind of protest before, but let’s hope that the government listens to them this time.
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