By now, we’ve all heard and saw the Black Lives Matter protests and how it has spread across the globe. But very few of us know the full story behind this massive public movement that has shaken several governments. Let’s deep dive and try to understand the significance of this anti-racist campaign.
Black Lives Matter is an organized movement that aims to bring justice, freedom and healing to Black Individuals all across the globe. The slogan in itself has gained to attract a good number of moral activists. Unfortunately, the names associated with the Black Lives Matter are its victims and not its leaders. These victims have managed to draw attention to the issue of racism prevalent in the U.S. George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner are among the few victims for who the public came together and demanded justice.
How did it all start?
Trayvon Martin, the young teenager who was shot dead
On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African American was returning home after shopping for ice tea and sweets. He was shot to death as he looked suspicious and dangerous in a community in Florida. He was killed by George Zimmerman, a private citizen who was a coordinator for the neighbourhood watch group in Florida.
George Zimmerman, the person who shot Trayvon Martin
He claimed his act as self-defense for killing an unarmed teenager and was later arrested. In 2013, the jury released Zimmerman as they did not find any sufficient evidence. This sparked an outrage and a Facebook post with the title “Black Lives Matter” gained attention and sparked action.
While the entire Black community felt lost, several of them believed that the police were not carrying out their investigation properly in the case of black victims. They felt as if their lives didn’t matter to the police like those of white victims did. Three bold women particularly stood out in response to the acquittal of Zimmerman in July 2013. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors coordinated the spread of brand-new hashtag #BlackLivesMatter all across Twitter.
The three women who spearheaded the Black Lives Matter campaign
The Black Lives Matter banner came into full motion in August 2014, when Michael Brown, an 18-year-old was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Several witnesses had claimed that the young kid had held up his hands when he was shot around 12 times by the officer. This resulted in protests not only in Ferguson but also in St. Louis.
Through coordination, the organizers of the Black Lives Matter managed to mobilize around 600 protestors who came to St. Louis. All the activists who came across the country met in Ferguson and returned to their home with a pledge to create a unified Black Lives Matter organization.
The killing of George Floyd
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was arrested by the Minneapolis police officers. The instance took place in response to a phone call received by the police from an employee of the convenience store. The employee complained that Mr. Floyd had purchased cigarettes by paying a counterfeit $20 bill. Within 17 minutes from the arrival of the first squad car, Mr. Floyd was found to be pinned and unconscious by three police officers while displaying no signs of life.
One of the police officers seen pinning Mr. Floyd down even as he was begging them to let him go
Through videos captured by security cameras and bystanders, the entire sequence of actions can be self-interpreted. The police officers can be found taking actions which violated the Minneapolis Police Department policies. It led to a fatal consequence which left Mr. Floyd unable to breathe.
The very next day, the Minneapolis Police Department fired all the officers who were involved at the scene. On May 29th, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney announced second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder charges against Derek Chauvin. He was the officer who had brutally pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground. As per the time-stamped video, he had kept his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd for nearly eight minutes and 15 seconds!
The remaining three former officers namely Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting of second-degree murder.
Protests following the death of George Floyd
The Black Lives Matter can turn out to be one of the largest public movements in the history of the United States. The recent protests have peaked on June 6th, wherein around half a million individuals turned out in nearly 550 different places across the US. As per 4 recent polls, it has been found that approximately 15-26 million people in the United States have participated in the protests over George Floyd’s death in the U.S. Crowd counting experts and scholars are of the opinion that these huge figures can make this protest the largest social movement in the history of the USA.
Solidarity gatherings, as well as marches took place in Sydney, Beirut, Istanbul, London and Berlin. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter drew the attention to police abuses made against African Americans in the United States. This trend caught global attention on social media and resulted in protesters landing on the streets from all across the globe.
The painting of George Floyd by Syrian artists
Source: Twitter @MarianKirollos
In the Idlib province of Syria, an artist painted a portrait of George Floyd on a bombed-out building. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, protesters threw rocks at the police in an attempt to fight against the racially stained policies of Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President. In Belgium, the protesters demanded to remove the statue of Leopold II. In Bristol, the UK, the statue of Edward Colston, a British slave trader was thrown into the River Avon by the protesters.
Steps being taken by Governments and Organizations to promote the safety of black people
UNICEF USA has come out in support of the “Justice of Policing Act”. The Act is a first step in changing the law enforcement culture to ensure public safety in a just and equal way.
The activists of Black Lives Matter have released a “Campaign Zero”, which compromises of a 10-policy solution. It has been developed in conjunction with researchers, activists and protestors from all across the United States while combining the demands of the community, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as well as the inputs from various research organizations.
The Obama Foundation has also issued a Mayor’s Pledge. This, in turn, commits mayors for taking necessary actions and introduce limits on the use of police force. In addition, a new legislation in Congress aims at cracking down brutality by the police.