|Formation||July 13, 2013|
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence toward black people. BLM regularly organizes protests around the deaths of black people in killings by law enforcement officers, and broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system.
In 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatteron social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter became nationally recognized for its street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York City.
Since the Ferguson protests, participants in the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions or while in police custody, including those of Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott,Jonathan Ferrell, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose, and Freddie Gray, which led to protests and rioting in Baltimore. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter began to publicly challenge politicians—including politicians in the 2016 United States presidential election—to state their positions on BLM issues. The overall Black Lives Matter movement, however, is a decentralized network and has no formal hierarchy or structure.
In the summer of 2013, after George Zimmerman‘s acquittal for the shooting deathof Trayvon Martin, the movement began with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The movement was co-founded by three black community organizers: Alicia Garza,Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.
BLM claims inspiration from the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement, the 1980s Black feminist movement, Pan-Africanism, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Hip hop, LGBTQ social movements and Occupy Wall Street.
Garza, Cullors and Tometi met through “Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity” (BOLD), a national organization that trains community organizers. They began to question how they were going to respond to the devaluation of black lives after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Garza wrote a Facebook post titled “A Love Note to Black People” in which she wrote: “Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter”. Cullors replied: “#BlackLivesMatter”. Tometi then added her support, and Black Lives Matter was born as an online campaign.
In August 2014, BLM members organized their first in-person national protest in the form of a “Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride” to Ferguson, Missouri after theshooting of Michael Brown. More than five hundred members descended upon Ferguson to participate in non-violent demonstrations. Of the many groups that descended on Ferguson, Black Lives Matter emerged from Ferguson as one of the best organized and most visible groups, becoming nationally recognized as symbolic of the emerging movement. Since August 2014, Black Lives Matter has organized more than one thousand protest demonstrations. On Black Friday in November, Black Lives Matter staged demonstrations at stores and malls across the United States.
In 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, black activists around the world modeled efforts for reform on Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring. This international movement has been referred to as the “Black Spring”.Connections have also been forged with parallel international efforts such as the Dalit rights movement. Expanding beyond street protests, BLM has expanded to activism, such as the 2015 University of Missouri protests, on American college campuses.
Currently, there are at least twenty-three Black Lives Matter chapters in the U.S., Canada, and Ghana. Other Black Lives Matter leaders include: DeRay Mckesson, Shaun King, Marissa Johnson, Nekima Levy-Pounds, and Johnetta Elzie.
Black Lives Matter originally used social media—including hashtag activism—to reach thousands of people rapidly. Since then, Black Lives Matters has embraced a diversity of tactics. BLM generally engages in direct action tactics that make people uncomfortable enough that they must address the issue.
BLM has been known to build power through protest. BLM has held rallies and marches, including one for the death of Corey Jones in Palm Beach, Florida.BLM has also staged die-ins and held one during the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon.
Political slogans used during demonstrations include the eponymous “Black Lives Matter”, “Hands up, don’t shoot” (a later discredited reference attributed to Michael Brown), “I can’t breathe” (referring to Eric Garner), “White silence is violence”, “No justice, no peace”, and “Is my son next?”, among others.
Most of the protesters actively distinguish themselves from the older generation of black leadership, such as Al Sharpton, by their aversion to middle-class traditions such as church involvement, Democratic Party loyalty, and respectability politics.
It is important to note that music is an important repertoire of contention for the black lives matter movement. Rappers such as Kendrick Lamar have used music to promote structural conduciveness necessary for a social movement to maintain momentum according to value added theory. Songs such as “Alright” have been used as a rallying call. Beyoncé‘s most recent production Lemonade featured Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin’s mothers crying while holding the last images they have of their sons, in effect propelling the issue of police brutality to a national stage. The video for her single “Formation” (2016) celebrates southern black culture and features a line of policemen holding up their hands while a hooded black boy dances in front of them. The video also features a shot of graffiti on a wall reading “stop shooting us”.
Memes are also important in garnering support for and against the Black Lives Matter new social movement. Information communication technologies such as Facebook and Twitter spread memes and are important tools for garnering web support in hopes of producing a spillover effect into the offline world. The use of ICTs facilitate the spread of the message “All Lives Matter” as a response to the Black Lives Matter hashtag as well as the “Blue Lives Matter” hashtag as a response to Beyonce’s halftime performance speaking out against police brutality.
Black Lives Matter incorporates those traditionally on the margins of black freedom movements. The organization’s website, for instance, states that Black Lives Matter is “a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of black people by police and vigilantes” and, embracing intersectionality, that “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, blackundocumented folks, folks with records, women and all black lives along the gender spectrum.”
Founder Alicia Garza summed up the philosophy behind Black Lives Matter as follows: “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country–one half of all people in prisons or jails–is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence.”
Garza went on: “Black queer and trans folks bearing a unique burden in a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us is state violence; the fact that 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows is state violence; the fact that Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war is state violence; Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by White supremacy is state violence. And the fact is that the lives of Black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.”
In 2014, the American Dialect Society chose #BlackLivesMatter as their word of the year. Over eleven hundred black professors expressed support for BLM.Several media organizations have referred to BLM as “a new civil rights movement”. #BlackLivesMatter was voted as one of the twelve hashtags that changed the world in 2014.
In 2015, Serena Williams expressed her support for Black Lives Matter, writing to BLM: “Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you. We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too.”
As a part of a general assembly, the Unitarian Universalist Church passed a resolution in support of BLM and staged a die-in in Portland, Oregon. Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza—as “The Women of #BlackLivesMatter” — were listed as one of the nine runners-up for The Advocate‘s Person of the Year.
The February 2015 issue of Essence Magazine and the cover was devoted to Black Lives Matter. In December 2015, BLM was a contender for the Time Magazine Person of the Year award. Angela Merkel won the award while BLM came in fourth of the eight candidates.
On May 9, 2016 Delrish Moss was sworn in as the first permanent African-American police chief in Ferguson, where he acknowledges he faces such challenges as diversifying the police force, creating dramatic improvements in community relations, and addressing issues that catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement.
Notable protests and demonstrations
In August 2014, during Labor Day weekend, Black Lives Matter organized a “Freedom Ride”, that brought more than 500 African-Americans from across the United States into Ferguson, Missouri, to support the work being done on the ground by local organizations.
Black Lives Matter members and supporters rode in from New York City, Newark, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Miami, Detroit, Houston, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Portland, Tucson, Washington, D.C., and more, in a similar way to that of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s. The movement has been generally involved in the Ferguson unrest, following the death of Michael Brown.
In November in Oakland, California, fourteen Black Lives Matter activists were arrested after they stopped a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train for more than an hour on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The protest, which was led by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, was organized in response to the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Mike Brown.
In December, 2,000–3,000 people gathered at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police. At least twenty members of a protest that had been using the slogan were arrested. InMilwaukee, Wisconsin, BLM protested the Shooting of Dontre Hamilton, who died in April. Black Lives Matter protested the Shooting of John Crawford III. TheShooting of Renisha McBride was protested by Black Lives Matter.
Also in December, in response to the decision by the grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson on any charges related to the death of Michael Brown, a protest march was held in Berkeley, California. Later, in 2015, protesters and journalists who participated in that rally filed a lawsuit alleging “unconstitutional police attacks” on attendees.
|This section is outdated. (December 2015)|
In March, BLM protested at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s office, demanding reforms within the Chicago Police Department. In Cobb County, Georgia, the movement protested the death of Nicholas Thomas who was shot and killed by the police.
In April, Black Lives Matter across the United States protested over the death of Freddie Gray which included the 2015 Baltimore protests. Black Lives Matter organizers supported the fast food strike in solidarity with fast food workers, and to oppose racial income inequality. On April 14, BLM protested across U.S. cities. In Zion, Illinois, several hundred protested over the fatal shooting of Justus Howell. After the shooting of Walter Scott, Black Lives Matter called for citizen oversight of police.
In May, a protest by BLM in San Francisco was part of a nationwide protest decrying the police killing of black women and girls, which included the deaths of Meagan Hockaday, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd and others. In Cleveland, Ohio, after an officer was acquitted at trial in the Shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, BLM protested. In Madison, Wisconsin, BLM protested after the officer was not charged in the Shooting of Tony Robinson.
In June, after a shooting in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, BLM issued a statement and condemned the shooting as an act of terror. BLM across the country marched, protested and held vigil for several days after the shooting. BLM was part of a march for peace on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina. After the Charleston shooting, a number of memorials to the Confederate States of America were graffitied with “Black Lives Matter” or otherwise vandalized. Around 800 people protested in McKinney, Texas after a video was released showing an officer pinning a girl—at a pool party in McKinney, Texas—to the ground with his knees.
In July, BLM protesters shut down Allen Road in Toronto, Ontario, protesting the shooting deaths of two black men in the metropolitan area—Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby—at the hands of police. BLM activists across the United States began protests over the death of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman, who was allegedly found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas. In Cincinnati, Ohio, BLM rallied and protested the Death of Samuel DuBose after he was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer. In Newark, New Jersey, over a thousand BLM activists marched against police brutality, racial injustice, and economic inequality.
In August, BLM organizers held a rally in Washington, D.C., calling for a stop to violence against transgender women. InSt. Louis, Missouri, BLM activists protested the death of Mansur Ball-Bey who was shot and killed by police. In Charlotte, North Carolina, after a judge declared a mistrial in the trial of a white Charlotte police officer who killed an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell, BLM protested and staged die-ins. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Janelle Monae, Jidenna and other BLM activists marched through North Philadelphia to bring awareness to police brutality and Black Lives Matter.
In September, BLM activists shut down streets in Toronto, rallied against police brutality, and stood in solidarity with marginalized black lives. Black Lives Matter was a featured part of the Take Back the Night event in Toronto. In Austin, Texas, over five hundred BLM protesters rallied against police brutality, and several briefly carried protest banners onto Interstate 35. In Baltimore, Maryland, BLM activists marched and protested as hearings began in the Freddie Gray police brutalitycase. In Sacramento, California, about eight hundred BLM protesters rallied to support a California Senate bill that would increase police oversight. BLM protested the Shooting of Jeremy McDole. [[
File:Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality (21552438456).jpg|thumb|Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality at Metro Green Line]]
In October, Black Lives Matters activists were arrested during a protest of a police chiefs conference in Chicago. Activists in Los Angeles Black Lives Matter activists were among several organizations that disrupted a community meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a church in South L.A. The protesters said that Garcetti had broken a promise to work with their organization to plan a meeting. The pastor of the church that hosted the meeting denied that Black Lives Matter organizers had been excluded.
“Rise Up October” straddled the Black Lives Matter Campaign, and brought several protests. Quentin Tarantino andCornel West, participating in “Rise Up October”, decried police violence. A Dunkin Donuts employee in Providence, Rhode Island wrote “black lives matter” on a police officer’s cup of coffee which resulted in protests.[clarification needed] AtUCLA, students protested “Black Bruins Matter” after some students wore blackface to a Kanye West-themed fraternityparty.
In November, BLM activists protested after Jamar Clark was shot by Minneapolis Police Department. A continuous protest was organized at the Minneapolis 4th Precinct Police. During the encamped protest, protestors and outside agitators clashed with police, vandalized the station and attempted to ram the station with an SUV. Later that month a march was organized to honor Jamar Clark, from the 4th Precinct to downtown Minneapolis. After the march, a group of men carrying firearms and body armor appeared and began calling the protesters racial slurs according to a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter. After protesters asked the armed men to leave, the men opened fire, shooting five protesters. All injuries required hospitalization, but were not life-threatening. The men fled the scene only to be found later and arrested. The three men arrested were young and white, and observers called them white supremacists.
In November 2015, students at Dartmouth College held a peaceful meeting and march after a Black Lives Matter art installation on the campus was vandalized. After the march, a smaller group of students entered the university library and conducted a protest there. The Dartmouth Review, a conservative campus publication, reported that the protesters had shoved other students and used profanity. Campus police and college officials claimed they had not observed any incidents of shoving or other physical violence.
In January, hundreds of BLM protesters marched in San Francisco to protest the December 2, 2015 shooting death of Mario Woods, who was shot by San Francisco Police officers. The march was held during a Super Bowl event.
In late May, BLM activists[disputed ] disrupted a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at DePaul University. Security did not intervene to stop the protests, despite the university requiring organizers to cover the cost of additional security.
On July 7, a sniper attack occurred during a rally in Dallas, Texas that was organized to protest the death of Alton Sterling. Five police officers were killed, and seven wounded. Two civilians were also shot, bringing the total number of victims to fourteen. Initial reports were of multiple coordinated snipers, but officials later reported that the suspect, Micah Johnson, who was killed in the incident, acted alone. Before he died, according to police, Johnson said that “he was upset about Black Lives Matter”, and that “he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Texas Lt. GovernorDan Patrick and other conservative lawmakers blamed the shootings on the Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter network released a statement denouncing the shootings.
2016 presidential election
In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter began to publicly challenge politicians—including 2016 United States presidential candidates—to state their positions on BLM issues.
In the first Democratic debate, the presidential candidates were asked whether black lives matter or all lives matter. In reply, Bernie Sanders stated “black lives matter.” Martin O’Malley said, “Black lives matter,” and that the “movement is making is a very, very legitimate and serious point, and that is that as a nation we have undervalued the lives of black lives, people of color.” Jim Webb, on the other hand, replied: “as the president of the United States, every life in this country matters.” Hillary Clinton was not directly asked the same question, but was instead asked: “What would you do for African Americans in this country that President Obama couldn’t?”
In response to what she would do differently from President Obama for African-Americans, Hillary Clinton pushed for criminal justice reform, and said, “We need a new New Deal for communities of color.” Clinton had already met with Black Lives Matter representatives in August 2015, and expressed skepticism in the movement’s practical application.[clarification needed] In June 2015, Clinton was reported to have said “All lives matter.”
Republican candidates have been mostly critical of BLM. In August 2015, Ben Carson, the only African American vying for the presidency, called the movement “silly”. Carson also said that BLM should care for all black lives, not just a few.In the first Republican presidential debate, which took place in Cleveland, only one question referenced Black Lives Matter. In response to the question, Scott Walker did not acknowledge Black Lives Matter and advocated for the proper training of law enforcement.
Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker blamed the movement for rising anti-police sentiment, while Marco Rubio was the first candidate to publicly sympathize with the movement’s point of view.
Several conservative pundits have labeled the movement a “hate group”. Candidate Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor, criticized President Obama for supporting BLM, claiming the movement calls for the murder of police officers,which was condemned by New Jersey chapters of the NAACP and ACLU.
BLM activists called on the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee to have a presidential debate focused on issues of racial justice. Both parties, however, declined to alter their debate schedule, and instead the parties support a townhall or forum.
At the Netroots Nation Conference in July 2015, dozens of Black Lives Matter activists took over the stage at an event featuring Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. Activists, including Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, asked both candidates for specific policy proposals to address deaths in police custody. The protesters chanted several slogans, including “if I die in police custody, burn everything down”. After conference organizers pleaded with the protesters for several minutes, O’Malley responded by pledging to release a wide-ranging plan for criminal justice reform. Protesters later booed O’Malley when he stated “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” O’Malley later apologized for his remarks, saying that he didn’t mean to disrespect the black community.
On August 8, 2015, a speech by Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights activist Bernie Sanders was disrupted by a group from the Seattle Chapter of Black Lives Matter including chapter co-founder Marissa Johnson who walked onstage, seized the microphone from him and called his supporters racists and white supremacists. Sanders issued a platform in response.
Nikki Stephens, the operator of a Facebook page called “Black Lives Matter: Seattle” issued an apology to Sanders’ supporters, claiming these actions did not represent her understanding of BLM. She was then sent messages by members of the Seattle Chapter which she described as threatening, and was forced to change the name of her group to “Black in Seattle”. The founders of Black Lives Matter stated that they had not issued an apology.
In August, activists chanting “Black Lives Matter” interrupted the Las Vegas rally of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. As Bush exited early, some of his supporters started responding to the protesters by chanting “white lives matter” or “all lives matter”.
In November, a BLM protester was physically assaulted at a Donald Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama. In response, Trump said, “maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Trump had previously threatened to fight any Black Lives Matter protesters if they attempted to speak at one of his events.
In March 2016, Black Lives Matter helped organize the 2016 Donald Trump Chicago rally protest that forced Trump to cancel the event. Four individuals were arrested and charged in the incident. Two were “charged with felony aggravated battery to a police officer and resisting arrest”, one was “charged with two misdemeanor counts of resisting and obstructing a peace officer”, and the fourth “was charged with one misdemeanor count of resisting and obstructing a peace officer”. A CBS reporter was one of those arrested outside the rally. He was charged with resisting arrest.
“All Lives Matter”
Some politicians,[who?] critics,[who?] and scholars[who?] have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by countering that the phrase “All Lives Matter” would be a more proper title. Tim Scott has defended the usage of the “All Lives Matter” term.
On Real Time with Bill Maher Bill Maher expressed support of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase, stating that “‘All Lives Matter’ implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not”. Founders have responded to criticism of the movement’s exclusivity, saying, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that Black lives, which are seen without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.”
In a video interview with Laura Flanders, Garza discussed how “changing Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter is a demonstration of how we don’t actually understand structural racism in this country”. She went on to discuss how other lives are valued more than black lives, which she strongly feels is wrong, and that to take blackness out of this equation is inappropriate.
The movement challenges the “universalizing politics” implied in the notion of a Post-racial America, and the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ reflects a view of “racial dismissal, ignoring, and denial”, according to critical race theory scholar David Theo Goldberg.
President Barack Obama spoke to the debate between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Obama said, “I think that the reason that the organizers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter … rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that’s not happening in other communities.” He also said “that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”
On February 24, 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, sent out a company-wide internal memo to employees formally rebuking employees who had crossed out handwritten “Black Lives Matter” phrases on the company walls and had written “All Lives Matter” in their place. Facebook allows employees to free-write thoughts and phrases on company walls. The memo was then leaked by several employees. As Zuckerberg had previously condemned this practice at previous company meetings, and other similar requests had been issued by other leaders at Facebook, Zuckerberg wrote in the memo that he would now consider this overwriting practice not only disrespectful, but “malicious as well”.
According to Zuckerberg’s memo, “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean other lives don’t – it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.” The memo noted that the act of crossing something out in itself, “means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s”.
African-American critics of the movement include neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, minister Johnathan Gentry of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and author and minister Barbara Ann Reynolds.
Deroy Murdock questioned the number of black people killed by police that is reported by BLM. He wrote, “But the notion that America’s cops simply are gunning down innocent black people is one of today’s biggest and deadliest lies.” The hashtag #BlueLivesMatter was created by supporters who stood up for police officers’ lives. Some critics also accuse Black Lives Matter of “anti-white and anti-police radicalism”.
Many individuals in law enforcement have been critical of BLM. Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr of Milwaukee County has been critical of Black Lives Matter, stating that there is no police brutality problem in America and that “there is no racism in the hearts of police officers”. John McWhorter said that the Black Lives Matter movement should take on black-on-black crime.
Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman said about the “Black Lives Matter” movement, “I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was [by] two 35-year-old black men. There was no police officer involved, there wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then.”
Some black civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, Najee Ali, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, have criticized the tactics of BLM. Marchers using a BLM banner were recorded in a video chanting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” at the Minnesota State Fair. Law enforcement groups said that the chant promotes death to police. The protest organizer disputed that interpretation.
A North Carolina police chief retired after calling BLM a terrorist group. A police officer in Oregon was removed from street duty following a social media post in which he said he would have to “babysit these fools”, in reference to planned BLM event.
Some commentators and law enforcement have said that BLM has made it hard for police to do their job, leading to a rise in crime rates. Commentators have referred to this as the “Ferguson effect.” FBI Director James Comey, for example, suggested that the movement is partly leading to a national rise in crime rates because police officers have pulled back from doing their jobs. However, there had been even larger crime spikes prior to the events in Ferguson.
In response to BLM, Facebook pages purporting to represent “White Student Unions” with the slogan “White Lives Matter” have been linked to college campuses in the United States. The pages often promise a “safe space” for white students and condemn alleged anti-white racism on campus. However, many of the groups were not verified as legitimate student organizations registered with their respective universities.
- Black Lives Matter appeared in an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
- The TV drama Scandal depicted Black Lives Matter on their March 5, 2015, episode that showed an unarmed black teen shot by a police officer.
- The documentary short film Bars4Justice features brief appearances by various activists and recording artists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. The film is an official selection of the 24th Annual Pan African Film Festival.
Alton Sterling just before being shot
|Date||July 5, 2016|
|Location||2112 North Foster Drive, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States|
|Filmed by||Bystander’s cell phone and security cameras|
|Participants||Howie Lake II, Blane Salamoni (officers)|
On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot several times after being tackled to the ground by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Police were responding to a report that a man dressed in red and selling CDs used a gun to threaten someone outside a convenience store. The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders. The videos show the confrontation and shooting at point-blank range.
The shooting led to protests in Baton Rouge and a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Alton Sterling (June 14, 1979 – July 5, 2016) was known locally in Baton Rouge as “CD Man”. He had a criminal record that included violent offenses and a 2009 conviction for carrying a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance. A 2009 affidavit of probable cause says that he actively resisted arrest and a “black semi auto gun” fell from his waistband as the arresting officer wrestled him on the ground. The officer was eventually able to arrest him. He had been living at a shelter for several months prior to his death. At the time of his death, Sterling was 37 years old and had five children.
The owner of the store where the shooting occurred, Abdullah Muflahi, said that Sterling had started carrying a gun a few days prior to the event, because other CD vendors had been robbed recently. Muflahi also said that Sterling was “not the one causing trouble” during the situation that led to the police being called.
The police officers involved in the shooting were Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni. Lake had three years of law enforcement experience which included a previous shooting of an African-American male for which he was placed on department-mandated leave; Salamoni had four years of experience. Salamoni and Lake had both been previously investigated for use of excessive force.
At 12:35 a.m., at 2112 North Foster Drive, in the parking lot of Triple S Food Mart, Sterling was detained by Baton Rouge Police Department officers after an anonymous caller reported that a man believed to be Sterling was threatening him and waving or brandishing a handgun while in the process of selling CDs. Sterling was tasered by the officers, then the officer grabbed Sterling, who was of heavy build, and tackled him to the hood of a silver sedan and then to the ground. Sterling was pinned to the ground by both officers, with one kneeling on his chest and the other on his thigh, both attempting to control his arms.
One officer exclaimed, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” One of the officers yelled, “If you fucking move, I swear to God!” Then, Officer Salamoni was heard on the video saying, “Lake, he’s going for the gun!” One of the officers aimed his gun at Sterling’s body, then three gunshots are heard, and then the camera pans away; just before the camera pans back, three more gunshots are heard. The police officer sitting on Alton’s chest is out of the picture, and the officer who drew the gun is about a meter away with his gun trained on Alton, who has a clear gunshot in his chest. According to witness Abdullah Muflahi, the officers then retrieved a firearm from Sterling’s pocket. The officers then radioed for Emergency Medical Services.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William Clark said the initial results of an autopsy performed on July 5 show Sterling died due to a homicide and suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
Multiple bystander cell phones captured video of the shooting, in addition to store surveillance and officer body cameras.One of the bystander videos was filmed by a group called “Stop the Killing” which listens to police scanners and films crimes in progress as well as police interactions in an effort to reduce violence in the community. A second video was made available the day after the shooting by the store owner and eyewitness Abdullah Muflahi. In a statement to NBC News, Muflahi said that Sterling never wielded the gun or threatened the officers.
Aftermath and reactions
On the night of July 5, more than 100 demonstrators in Baton Rouge shouted “no justice, no peace”, set off fireworks, and blocked an intersection to protest Sterling’s death. Flowers and messages were left at the place of his death. The police cleared a crowd of about 200 people, but the organizers announced that they would regroup in front of City Hall.
Speaking shortly after the shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile, President Barack Obama did not comment on the specific incidents, but called upon the U.S. to “do better”. He also said “Americans should feel outraged at episodes of police brutality since they’re rooted in long-simmering racial discord.”
On July 7, a protest was held at Dallas, Texas, relating to this shooting and that of Castile on July 6. At the end of the peaceful protest, Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire in an ambush, killing five police officers and wounding seven others and two civilians. The gunman was then killed by a robot-delivered bomb.
Following the shooting of Sterling, Castile, and Dallas police officers, the Bahamian government issued a travel advisory telling citizens to use caution when traveling to the U.S. due to racial tensions. They specifically advised that young men use “extreme caution” when interacting with police and to be non-confrontational and cooperative. They were followed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain days later.
On July 8, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement strongly condemning Sterling and Castile’s killings. Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, the current Chair of the the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, stated that the killings demonstrate “a high level ofstructural and institutional racism” in the U.S., adding that “the United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings”.
On July 9, a protest in Baton Rouge turned violent, with one police officer having several teeth knocked out and eight firearms (including three rifles, three shotguns, and two pistols) being confiscated from New Black Panther Partymembers. 102 people were arrested, including DeRay McKesson, a prominent activist in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Louisiana U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond said that the footage of Sterling’s shooting is “deeply troubling” and called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the man’s death. Governor John Bel Edwards announced on July 6 that the Department of Justice would launch an investigation. A civil rights investigation was opened by the Department of Justice on July 7.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators process the scene.
|Date||July 6, 2016|
|Location||Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, United States|
|Filmed by||Diamond Reynolds|
The shooting of Philando Castile occurred on July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was pulled over on a routinetraffic stop. A St. Anthony Police Department officer, Jeronimo Yanez, asked for Castile’s driver’s license and vehicle registration. According to Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, who was with him in the vehicle, Castile told Yanez he had a firearm that he was licensed to carry. Yanez then shot Castile, who died shortly after arriving at the hospital. A video of the immediate aftermath was live streamed by Reynolds.
Philando Castile (July 16, 1983 – July 6, 2016) was 32 years old at the time of his death. Castile’s Facebook page said that he attended the University of Minnesota. He graduated from Saint Paul Central High School in 2001 and worked for the St. Paul Public School District from 2002 until his death. Castile began as a nutrition services assistant at Chelsea Heights Elementary School and Arlington High School (now Washington Technology Magnet School). He was promoted to nutrition services supervisor (cafeteria supervisor) at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, a Montessori school, in August 2014.
In a press briefing at the scene, interim St. Anthony police chief Jon Mangseth said that the shooting was the first officer-involved shooting that the department had experienced in at least thirty years. In Minnesota, as a whole, at least 148 people since 2000 have died after being shot, stunned by a Taser, or restrained by a police officer. No charges were brought against any officer in any of these deaths, with a grand jury, a county attorney, or the United States Attorney finding a lack of probable cause in 134 cases. At the time of Castile’s death, five fatal police shootings remained under investigation in Minnesota.
The officer who shot Castile was identified by the police department as Jeronimo Yanez. Both officers had been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years at the time of the shooting. The department has 23 officers, “eight of whom are paid for through policing contracts with the cities of Lauderdale and Falcon Heights.”
Castile was pulled over as part of a traffic stop by St. Anthony patrol officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser, for a broken rear light in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of Saint Paul.
The stop took place on Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street. Riding in the whiteOldsmobile with Castile was his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter. Castile was the driver, Reynolds was the front-seat passenger, and the child was in the back seat.
Before Castile was killed, he told Yanez that he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and had one in the car. Reynolds stated on the video that Yanez “asked him for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry. The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.”
The events that occurred immediately following the shooting were streamed live in a ten-minute video via Facebook. Reynolds appears to have begun recording seconds after her boyfriend was shot, just after 9 p.m. local time. The video depicts Castile slumped over, moaning and moving slightly, with a bloodied left arm and side. In the video, Reynolds is speaking with Yanez and explaining what happened. Reynolds states in the video: “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
At one point in the video footage, an officer then orders Reynolds to get on her knees and the sound of Reynolds being handcuffed can be heard. Reynolds’ phone falls onto the ground but continues recording, and an officer (apparently the officer who shot Castile) periodically yells “Fuck!” The day following the shooting, Reynolds said that police had “treated me like a criminal … like it was my fault.”
Reynolds said that officers had failed to check Castile for a pulse or to render first aid, and instead comforted the crying officer who fired the shots. Reynolds stated that Castile received no medical attention until paramedics arrived more than ten minutes after the shooting.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is the lead agency in charge of the investigation.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s manner of death as a homicide and said that he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The office reported that Castile died at 9:37 p.m. in the emergency room of theHennepin County Medical Center, about 20 minutes after being shot.
Aftermath and reactions
By 12:30 a.m., protestors gathered at the scene, “peaceful but visibly angry.”More than 200 people were present. After news of Castile’s death spread, crowds of protestors gathered outside the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion, chanting Castile’s name and demanding that Governor Mark Dayton make a statement.
The following day, at 10:00 a.m., Dayton appeared, stating:
My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends. On behalf of all decent minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified by what occurred last night. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. It is not the norm in Minnesota. I promise … to see that this matter is brought to justice and all avenues are pursued and do a complete investigation. Justice will be served in Minnesota.
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, whose district includes the location where Castile was shot, also called for a federal Justice Department investigation and U.S. Senator Al Franken also called for a federal investigation, saying in a statement that: “I am horrified that we are forced to confront yet another death of a young African-American man at the hands of law enforcement. And I am heartbroken for Philando’s family and loved ones, whose son, brother, boyfriend, and nephew was taken from them last night.” U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota spoke about “a systematic targeting of African Americans and a systematic lack of accountability.”
The day after the fatal shooting, the St. Anthony Police Department identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as Jeronimo Yanez. In accordance with standard practice, both were placed on administrative leave.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, said that her group would request a federal investigation and called for an independent body to investigate the shooting, expressing skepticism with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Speaking shortly after the shootings of Castile and Alton Sterling, President Barack Obama did not comment on the specific incidents, but called on the U.S. to “do better” and said that controversial incidents arising from the police use of force were “not isolated incidents” but rather were “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.” Obama expressed “extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers” and noted the difficult nature of the job. He stated, “When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.”
Protests and organizations were being arranged at the site of the shooting as well as outside of the hospital where Castile died. Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson said: “Philando Castile should be alive today.”