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Black Lives Matter

This article is written by Janvi Kashyap, a First year B.A. LLB (Hons.) Student of Ideal Institute of Management and Technology (Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University), Delhi.

Introduction

“Black  Lives Matter” (BLM) is a global communal justice activism movement that began in the United States and has rapidly unfurl around the globe. The movement seeks to acquire racial justice for African-Americans and for those individuals who are recognized as black. Activists who participate in the movement aim to bring an end to violence and systemic racism aimed against the black people.

Since the establishment of this movement, it has transformed into a full scaled move that manifests on and offline, and it has expanded from being a response to police brutality to enclose all types of injustices faced by black people, together with the realms of education, class relations and the criminal justice system.

“Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement fosters upon people to think critically about the prejudiced treatment of the African-American community throughout the world, especially in the United States. This movement has a distinctive contribution that goes far off than the felonious killings of Black people by vigilantes and police.

Additionally, this movement surrounds its main conversation around the deprivation of basic human rights that the African-American community has been through; specifically, it aims to start conversations and discussion about poverty, violence, justice, gender equality and LGBTQ and disability rights.

Moreover, Black Lives Matter movement also aims to broaden the current perspective of black liberation movements. It encourages people coming from different backgrounds but from same community with various identities (such as disabled Trans, queers, and female African-Americans) to have their own voice by engaging themselves in such movements. The participants of Black Lives Matter are determined to be independent from the American Political establishment and the old guard leaders that focuses on political and social validity rather than resonate with current struggles and challenges.

The Black Lives Matter movement was initiated at grass root level when three African-American men were died and eventually the history was solidified, and became an urgent need to fight for this community.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin

In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American high school student was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the neighborhoods watch coordinator for a gated community, where the father of  Trayvon Martin finacee was an inhabitant. The night of his murder, Zimmerman was on community watch and spotted Martin walking about the neighborhood at around 7pm in the evening. After informing the police, Zimmerman approached Martin when an altercation broke out between Zimmerman and him, which in the final analysis ended up in Martin murder. Later, Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder, however, on July 13th, 2013 he was found not guilty.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin and the verdict of the courts caused an screech from the African American community for action against anti-black racism that permeates today’s society. Out of a response to the acquitted Zimmerman, Patrisse Cullors created a hashtag on Facebook in response to a post by Alicia Garza about the incident called, #BlackLivesMatter.

Later, Mr. Cullors with the jont efforts of Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi started the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. Thus, the movement began in a local grassroots community of Oakland by the work and all the credit goes to three of them who initiated the incumbent movement. Yet, the movement did not gain national recognition until a year later with the deaths of both Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

 Eric Garner fighting for breath

On 17th July 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American, was suffocated to death by Daniel Pantaleo. Mr. Pantaleo was a 29 year old caucasian policeman at Tompkinsville, Staten Island. Garner, unarmed, was approached by the police under the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes, a charge that Garner had served many times prior. After refusing to be arrested, police attempted to handcuff Garner but he was uncooperative until Pantaleo put him in a chokehold from behind which is prohibited by N.Y.P.D. regulations.

Therefore, after wrestling him to the ground, the police handcuffed him but had his chest compressed to the ground. Garner requested to the cops that he couldn’t breathe almost a dozen times until he departed out on the street.

Thereafter, an ambulance arrived but failed to perform CPR as it was assumed that Garner was still breathing, until he was ruled dead at the hospital an hour later. The case went to trial on the grand jury until on Dec 3rd, 2014, the jury did not summon Pantaleo for his actions. The video clip of the incident was captured on a cell phone and posted on social media, in which protests broke out across the country. This was the beginning of “Black Lives Matter” supports began to emerge, using this slogan to protest the police brutality occurring to the black community.

The shooting of Michael Brown

On 9th August 2014, it’s been merely 28 days after the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, a unarmed 18-year-old African American teenager, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, Mr. Wilson is a 28 year old Caucasian policeman at Ferguson Missouri.

After stealing some merchandise at a corner convenience store, Brown and fellow friend were resisted by Wilson. After an altercation between Brown and Wilson, Brown and his friend fled, in which Wilson pursued until he caught up to Brown. Unarmed, Brown turned to face Wilson then moved towards him resulting in shots fired by Wilson and ultimately the Death of Michael Brown. Following the incident, outrage and protests broke out in Ferguson which is known as the “Ferguson unrest”.

The incident went to the grand jury, however on October 22nd, the grand jury decided not to prosecute Wilson for his actions. This, combined with the death of Eric Garner, was the last straw and a crucial step in the Black Lives Matter movement. Hundreds of protests broke out across the nation to fight back against police brutality on African American men. #BlackLivesMatter signs were used in all the protests and people started rallying behind this movement.

The Black Lives Matter movement was cemented, and internationally recognized on 13th  December when over 100,000 people came together for the “Justice for all” rally in Washington to protest police brutality against black people. On this stage “Black Lives Matter” movement was established in the history.

Recent  case of George Floyd

In the past few months, the events eventuate in U.S.A left me dumbstruck. Watching the hatred, the racism, the bigotry unfold was excruciating. Though there has been much progress, but there is still much work to do. We must always resist the things which are biased and never stop fighting for what’s right. And, we cannot remain silent in the face of evil. I would like to expound a prominent Quote by Nelson Mandela that

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

I would like to throw a light upon recent case of “George Floyd”,a 46-year-old African American man, died in Minneapolis on 25th May 2020 (Monday), while he was being restrained by the police. The video footage of the incident went viral on social media platforms which was broadcast by the media, showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he panted for breath.

Four policemen have since been fired, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been called in to conduct a federal civil rights probe. The officer who pinned him to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third degree murder.

The death of Mr. Floyd set in motion violent unrest in Minneapolis, which eventually lead to a state of peacetime emergency being declared in Minnesota state as well as the activation of its National Guard. Protests have also taken place in other parts of the US, including in California, New York, Ohio and Colorado. This happening once again puts the light on hatred, Racism and biased law enforcements against the African American minority.

Death of George Floyd

George Floyd, a Minnesota resident, was arrested on 25th May 2020, after he was accused of using a counterfeit $20 note at a local delicatessen. As per the police disclosure, Floyd “physically combated” the arrest after he was told to exit his car, a claim that was belied by mobile phone footage recorded by several passers-by. A white police officer kneeled on 46 year old, Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes notwithstanding the 46-year-old gasping for breath and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. But still, the officer remained in that position even after Floyd became unconscious. His unresponsive body was then taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called the incident “public lynching without a rope.”

The Mayor of Minneapolis “Jacob Frey” said, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck… When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer completely failed in the most basic, human sense.”

Floyd’s repeatedly cried for help, that he can’t breathe, but the police cops remained in the same kneeling position until he became unconscious. This was almost the same case as discussed above, in the case of Eric Garner in 2014. Garner, an unarmed African American man, had uttered the same words 11 times as he was held in a chokehold by a police officer in New York City before he died. ‘I can’t breathe’ has now become a pick up cry among youngsters, supporters and protesters.

Other high profile deaths include the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man shot seven times at close range during a traffic stop, also in Minnesota, just after he had informed the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, that he was carrying a gun. Yanez was acquitted of all charges in 2017. The incident became viral after Castile’s girlfriend streamed part of the incident on Facebook.

Conclusion

As discussed in the above Article that The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is initially initiated in 2013, after the acquittal of a civilian who fatally shot teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida the year before, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began trending on social media, and a movement against systemic violence against the African American community sprung up. Black Lives Matter achieved national fame in 2014 during protests against the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown– the latter also being a case of fatal police shooting. The movement, started by three African American women, expanded across the US and invited public interest internationally. Black Lives Matter movement is largely decentralised and does not have a formal hierarchy.

The movement has been criticised by alternative right commentators in the US. Some of BLM’s opponents have responded with their own counter-campaigns such as “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter”. Therefore, to conclude all races are idiosyncratic in its own way. The division of humanity is not based upon any caste, creed, religion or race because there is only one race of people on this planet and it is a human one.

This article is edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.

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