Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized movement in the United States advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against African-American people. An organization known simply as Black Lives Matter exists as a decentralized network with about 16 chapters in the United States and Canada, while a larger Black Lives Matter movement exists consisting of various separate like-minded organizations such as Dream Defenders and Assata’s Daughters. The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence towards black people, as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation.
In July 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier, in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown—resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson Missouri, a city near St. Louis—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. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter activists became involved in the 2016 United States presidential election. The originators of the hashtag and call to action, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, expanded their project into a national network of over 30 local chapters between 2014 and 2016. The overall Black Lives Matter movement is a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy.
The movement returned to national headlines and gained further international attention during the global George Floyd protests in 2020 following Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. An estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated (though not all are “members” of the organization) in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, making Black Lives Matter one of the largest movements in U.S. History. The movement has advocated to defund the police and invest directly into black communities and alternative emergency response models.
The popularity of Black Lives Matter has rapidly shifted over time. Whereas public opinion on Black Lives Matter was net negative in 2018, it grew increasingly popular through 2019 and 2020. A June 2020 Pew Research Center poll found that the majority of Americans, across all racial and ethnic groups, have expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Structure and organization
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” can refer to a Twitter hashtag, a slogan, a social movement, or a loose confederation of groups advocating for racial justice. As a movement, Black Lives Matter is grassroots, decentralized, and leaders have emphasized the importance of local organizing over national leadership. Activist DeRay McKesson has commented that the movement “encompasses all who publicly declare that black lives matter and devote their time and energy accordingly.”
In 2013, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi formed the Black Lives Matter Network. Alicia Garza described the network as an online platform that existed to provide activists with a shared set of principles and goals. Local Black Lives Matter chapters are asked to commit to the organization’s list of guiding principles but operate without a central structure or hierarchy. Alicia Garza has commented that the Network was not interested in “policing who is and who is not part of the movement.”
The loose structure of Black Lives Matter has contributed to confusion in the press and among activists, as actions or statements from chapters or individuals are sometimes attributed to “Black Lives Matter” as a whole. Matt Pearce, writing for the Los Angeles Times, commented that “the words could be serving as a political rallying cry or referring to the activist organization. Or it could be the fuzzily applied label used to describe a wide range of protests and conversations focused on racial inequality.”
According to the Black Lives Matter website, there are thirteen guiding principles that should apply to those who choose to become involved under the Black Lives Matter banner, among them Diversity, Globalism, Empathy, Restorative justice and Intergenerationality.
Concurrently, a broader movement involving several other organizations and activists emerged under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” as well. For example, BLM is a member organization of the Movement for Black Lives established to respond to sustained and increasingly visible violence against black communities in the U.S. and globally. In 2015 Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Samuel Sinyangwe, initiated Campaign Zero, aimed at promoting policy reforms to end police brutality. The campaign released a ten-point plan for reforms to policing, with recommendations including: ending broken windows policing, increasing community oversight of police departments, and creating stricter guidelines for the use of force. New York Times reporter John Eligon reported that some activists had expressed concerns that the campaign was overly focused on legislative remedies for police violence.
Black Lives Matters also voices support for movements and causes outside the reach of black police brutality, including LGBTQ activism, feminism, immigration reform and economic justice.
Funding of the movement
Politico reported in 2015 that the Democracy Alliance, a gathering of Democratic-Party donors, planned to meet with leaders of several groups who were endorsing the Black Lives Matter movement. According to Politico, the donor coalition named Solidaire, focusing on “movement building” and led by Texas oil fortune heir Leah Hunt-Hendrix, a member of the Democracy Alliance, had donated more than 200,000 dollars to the BLM movement by 2015. In 2016, the Ford Foundation announced plans to fund M4BL in a “six-year investments” plan, further partnering up with others to found the Black-led Movement Fund.
The sum donated by the Ford Foundation and the other donors to M4BL was reported as 100 million dollars by the Washington Times in 2016; another donation of 33 million dollars to M4BL was reportedly issued by the Open Society Foundations.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter and a coalition of 60 organizations affiliated with BLM called for decarceration in the United States, reparations for slavery in the United States, an end to mass surveillance, investment in public education, not incarceration, and community control of the police: empowering residents in communities of color to hire and fire police officers and issue subpoenas, decide disciplinary consequences and exercise control over city funding of police.
Strategies and tactics
Black Lives Matter originally used various social media platforms—including hashtag activism—to reach thousands of people rapidly. Since then, Black Lives Matters has embraced a diversity of tactics.
Internet and social media
In 2014, the American Dialect Society chose #BlackLivesMatter as their word of the year. Yes! Magazine picked #BlackLivesMatter as one of the twelve hashtags that changed the world in 2014. From July 2013 through May 1, 2018, the hashtag “#Black Lives Matter” had been tweeted over 30 million times, an average of 17,002 times per day; by June 10, 2020, it had been tweeted roughly 47.8 million times. With the period of July 7-17, 2016, having the highest usage, at nearly 500,000 tweets a day. On May 28, 2020, there nearly 8.8 million tweets with the hashtag, and the average had increased to 3.7 million a day.
The 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers saw the online tone of the movement become more negative than before, with 39% of tweets using the hastag #BlackLivesMatter expressing opposition to the movement. Nearly half in opposition tied the group to violence with many decrying the group to be terrorist.
Dr. Khadijah White, a professor at Rutgers University, argues that BLM has ushered in a new era of black university student movements. The ease with which bystanders can record graphic videos of police violence and post them onto social media has driven activism all over the world.
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 and rallies. 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.
According to a 2018 study, “Black Lives Matter protests are more likely to occur in localities where more black people have previously been killed by police.”
Media, music, and other cultural impacts
Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, the movement has been depicted and documented in film, song, television, literature, and the visual arts. A number of media outlets are providing material related to racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Published books, novels, and TV shows have increased in popularity in 2020. Songs such as Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” have been widely used as a rallying call at demonstrations.
The Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc., a global organization in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, established Black Lives Matter Arts+Culture to add to and maintain cultural awareness of this movement, uplift black artists, and diversify art institutions in keeping with the “art culture of the Civil rights, Black Power, and Women’s rights movements” of the 1960s and 1970s.
The short documentary 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. Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement is a 2016 American television documentary film starring Jesse Williams about the Black Lives Matter movement.
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, coming in fourth of the eight candidates.
A number of cities have painted murals of “Black Lives Matter” in large letters on their streets. The cities include Washington, D.C., Dallas, Denver, Charlotte, Seattle, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Birmingham, Alabama.
On May 9, 2016, Delrish Moss was sworn in as the first African-American police chief in Ferguson, where he acknowledges he faces such challenges as diversifying the police force, improving community relations, and addressing issues that catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement.
Police use of excessive force
According to a study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2002 to 2011, among those who had contact with the police, “blacks (2.8%) were more likely than whites (1.0%) and Hispanics (1.4%) to perceive the threat or use of nonfatal force was excessive.”
According to The Washington Post, police officers shot and killed 1,001 people in the United States in 2019. About half of those killed were white, and one quarter were black, making the rate of deaths for black Americans (31 fatal shootings per million) more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans (13 fatal shootings per million).
A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that after adjusting for crime, there was “no systematic evidence of anti-Black disparities in fatal shootings, fatal shootings of unarmed citizens, or fatal shootings involving misidentification of harmless objects”. A study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that blacks and Hispanics were 50% more likely to experience non-lethal force in police interactions, but for officer-involved shootings there were “no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account”.
A study in PLOS One found “significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans” by police. The average bias measure was that unarmed African Americans had 3.49 times the probability of being shot compared to unarmed whites, although in some jurisdictions the risk could be as much as 20 times higher. The study also found that the documented racial bias in police shootings could not be explained by differences in local crime rates.
A study published in the Nature found that official government statistics of police brutality were potentially compromised by Simpson’s paradox. It argued that if a black person was more likely to be encountered by police or pulled over for no justifiable reason, and a white person only interacted with police for serious crimes where they were definitely guilty, then the additional unnecessary police encounters with black people means that black people have many more interactions with police in non-deadly situations — a dynamic exacerbated by racism. Which artificially dilutes the official black death rate per police encounter and consequently create misleading statistics.
The U.S. population’s perception of Black Lives Matter varies considerably by race; however, the majority of Americans, across all racial and ethnic groups, have expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. A 2020 Pew Research Center poll found that 60% of white, 77% of Hispanic, 75% of Asian and 86% of African-Americans either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” BLM.
The phrase “All Lives Matter” sprang up as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, but has been criticized for dismissing or misunderstanding the message of “Black Lives Matter”. Following the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, the hashtag Blue Lives Matter was created by supporters of the police. A few civil rights leaders have disagreed with tactics used by Black Lives Matter activists.
In the weeks following the death of George Floyd, many corporations came out in support of the movement, donating and enacting policy changes in accordance with group’s ethos.
In 2014, Black Lives Matter demonstrated against the deaths of numerous African Americans by police actions, including those of Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Antonio Martin, and Jerame Reid, among others.
In July, Eric Garner died in New York City, after a New York City Police Department officer put him in a banned chokehold while arresting him. Garner’s death has been cited as one of several police killings of African Americans that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
In August, 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. The movement continued to be involved in the Ferguson unrest, following the death of Michael Brown. The protests at times came into conflict with local and state police departments, who typically responded in a armed manner. At one point the National Guard was called in and a state of emergency was declared.
Also in August, Los Angeles Police Department officers shot and killed Ezell Ford; BLM protested his death in Los Angeles into 2015.
In November, a New York City Police Department officer shot and killed, Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old African-American man. Gurley’s death was later protested by Black Lives Matter in New York City. 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, 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.
Also in November, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer. Rice’s death has also been cited as contributing to “sparking” the Black Lives Matter movement.
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. The police at the mall were equipped with riot gear and bomb-sniffing dogs; at least twenty members of the protest were arrested.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, BLM protested the police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, who died in April. Black Lives Matter protested the shooting of John Crawford III. The shooting 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.
A week after the Michael Brown verdict, two police officers were killed in New York City by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who expressed a desire to kill police officers in retribution for the deaths of Garner and Brown. Black Lives Matters condemned the shooting, though some right-wing media attempted to connect the group to it, with the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association president claiming that there was “blood on [the] hands [of] those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests”. A conservative television commentator also attempted to connect Black Lives Matter to protesters chanting that they wanted to see “dead cops,” at the December “Millions March” which was organized by different groups.
In 2015, Black Lives Matter demonstrated against the deaths of numerous African Americans by police actions, including those of Charley Leundeu Keunang, Tony Robinson, Anthony Hill, Meagan Hockaday, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, William Chapman, Jonathan Sanders, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose, Jeremy McDole, Corey Jones, and Jamar Clark as well Dylan Roof’s murder of The Charleston Nine.
In March, BLM protested at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, demanding reforms within the Chicago Police Department. Charley Leundeu Keunang, a 43-year-old Cameroonian national, was fatally shot by Los Angeles Police Department officers. The LAPD arrested fourteen following BLM demonstrations.
In April, Black Lives Matter across the United States protested over the death of Freddie Gray which included the 2015 Baltimore protests. The national guard was called in. After the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, Black Lives Matter protested Scott’s death and called for citizen oversight of police.
In May, a protest by BLM in San Francisco was part of a nationwide protest, Say Her Name, 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. n Madison, Wisconsin, BLM protested after the officer was not charged in the shooting of Tony Robinson.
In June, after Dylann Roof’s 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 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. Also in July, BLM protested the death of Jonathan Sanders who died while being arrested by police in Mississippi.
In August, BLM organizers held a rally in Washington, D.C., calling for a stop to violence against transgender women. 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 Monáe, Jidenna, and other BLM activists marched through North Philadelphia to bring awareness to police brutality and Black Lives Matter. Around August 9, the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, BLM rallied, held vigil and marched in St. Louis and across the country.
In September, over five hundred BLM protesters in Austin, Texas 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 brutality case. 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.
In October, Black Lives Matters activists were arrested during a protest of a police chiefs conference in Chicago. “Rise Up October” straddled the Black Lives Matter Campaign, and brought several protests.
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, protesters, 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 February 2017, one of the men arrested, Allen Scarsella, was convicted of a dozen felony counts of assault and riot in connection with the shooting. Based in part on months of racist messages Scarsella had sent his friends before the shooting, the judge rejected arguments by his defense that Scarsella was “naïve” and sentenced him in April 2017 to 15 years out of a maximum 20-year sentence.
From November into 2016, BLM protested the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, calling for the resignation of numerous Chicago officials in the wake of the shooting and its handling. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter demonstrated against the deaths of numerous African Americans by police actions, including those of Bruce Kelley Jr., Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Joseph Mann, Abdirahman Abdi, Paul O’Neal, Korryn Gaines, Sylville Smith, Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, Alfred Olango, and Deborah Danner, among others.
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. BLM held protests, community meetings, teach-ins, and direct actions across the country with the goal of “reclaim[ing] the radical legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.”
In February, Abdullahi Omar Mohamed, a 17-year-old Somali refugee, was shot and injured by Salt Lake City, Utah, police after allegedly being involved in a confrontation with another person. The shooting led to BLM protests.
In June, members of BLM and Color of Change protested the California conviction and sentencing of Jasmine Richards for a 2015 incident in which she attempted to stop a police officer from arresting another woman. Richards was convicted of “attempting to unlawfully take a person from the lawful custody of a peace officer”, a charge that the state penal code had designated as “lynching” until that word was removed two months prior to the incident.
On July 5, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot several times at point-blank range while pinned to the ground by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 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. On July 6, Black Lives Matter held a candlelight vigil in Baton Rouge, with chants of “We love Baton Rouge” and calls for justice.
On July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was driving a car with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter as passengers when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer. According to his girlfriend, after being asked for his license and registration, Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a weapon and had one in the car. She stated: “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.” She live-streamed a video on Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Following the fatal shooting of Castile, BLM protested throughout Minnesota and the United States.
On July 7, a BLM protest was held in Dallas, Texas that was organized to protest the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. 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. 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. Governor Dan 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. On July 8, more than 100 people were arrested at Black Lives Matter protests across the United States.
In the first half of July, there were at least 112 protests in 88 American cities. In July 2016, NBA stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade opened the 2016 ESPY Awards with a Black Lives Matter message. On July 26, Black Lives Matter held a protest in Austin, Texas, to mark the third anniversary of the shooting death of Larry Jackson Jr. On July 28, Chicago Police Department officers shot Paul O’Neal in the back and killed him following a car chase. After the shooting, hundred marched in Chicago, Illinois.
In Randallstown, Maryland, near Baltimore, on August 1, 2016, police officers shot and killed Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old African-American woman, also shooting and injuring her son. Gaines’ death was protested throughout the country.
In August, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Black Lives Matter protested the death of Bruce Kelley Jr. who was shot after fatally stabbing a police dog while trying to escape from police the previous January.
In August, several professional athletes began participating in National Anthem protests. The protests began in the National Football League (NFL) after Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sat during the anthem, as opposed to the tradition of standing, before his team’s third preseason game of 2016. During a post-game interview he explained his position stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” a protest widely interpreted as in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests have generated mixed reactions, and have since spread to other U.S. sports leagues.
In September 2016, BLM protested the shooting deaths by police officers of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer reported “The protesters began to gather as night fell, hours after the shooting. They held signs that said ‘Stop Killing Us’ and ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and they chanted ‘No justice, no peace.’ The scene was sometimes chaotic and tense, with water bottles and stones chucked at police lines, but many protesters called for peace and implored their fellow demonstrators not to act violently.” Multiple nights of protests from September to October 2016 were held in El Cajon, California, following the shooting of Alfred Olango.
In 2017, in Black History Month, a month-long “Black Lives Matter” art exhibition was organized by three Richmond, Virginia artists at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond in the Byrd Park area of the city. The show featured more than 30 diverse multicultural artists on a theme exploring racial equality and justice.
In the same month Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library focused on a month-long schedule of events relating to African-American history and showed photos from the church’s “Black Lives Matter” exhibition on its outdoor screen. The VCU schedule of events also included: the Real Life Film Series The Angry Heart: The Impact of Racism on Heart Disease among African-Americans; Keith Knight presented the 14th Annual VCU Libraries Black History Month lecture; Lawrence Ross, author of the book Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses talked about how his book related to the “Black Lives Matter” movement; and Velma P. Scantlebury, M.D., the first black female transplant surgeon in the United States, discussed “Health Equity in Kidney Transplantation: Experiences from a surgeon’s perspective.”
Black Lives Matter protested the shooting of Jocques Clemmons which occurred in Nashville, Tennessee on February 10, 2017. On May 12, 2017, a day after Glenn Funk, the district attorney of Davidson County decided not to prosecute police officer Joshua Lippert, the Nashville chapter of BLM held a demonstration near the Vanderbilt University campus all the way to the residence of Nashville mayor Megan Barry.
On September 27, 2017, at the College of William & Mary, students associated with Black Lives Matter protested an ACLU event because the ACLU had fought for the right of Unite the Right rally to be held in Charlottesville, Virginia. William & Mary’s president Taylor Reveley responded with a statement defending the college’s commitment to open debate.
In February and March, as part of its social justice focus, First Unitarian Church Church of Richmond, Virginia in Richmond, Virginia presented its Second Annual Black Lives Matter Art Exhibition. Works of art in the exhibition were projected at scheduled hours on the large exterior screen (jumbotron) at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Cabell Library. Artists with art in the exhibition were invited to discuss their work in the Black Lives Matter show as it was projected at an evening forum in a small amphitheater at VCU’s Hibbs Hall. They were also invited to exhibit afterward at a local showing of the film A Raisin in the Sun.
In April 2018, CNN reported that the largest Facebook account claiming to be a part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement was a “scam” tied to a white man in Australia. The account, with 700,000 followers, linked to fundraisers that raised $100,000 or more, purportedly for U.S. Black Lives Matter causes; however, some of the money was instead transferred to Australian banks accounts, according to CNN. Facebook has suspended the offending page.
On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. Arbery had been pursued and confronted by three white residents driving two vehicles, including a father and son who were armed. All three men have been indicted on nine counts, including felony murder.
On March 13, Louisville police officers knocked down the apartment door of 26-year-old African American Breonna Taylor, serving a no-knock search warrant for drug suspicions. Police fired several shots during the encounter which led to her death. Her boyfriend who was present at the time had called 911 and said, “someone kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend”. Protests were held in Louisville with calls for police reform.
On May 25, Christian Cooper, a black bird-watcher at New York’s Central Park experienced a confrontation with a white woman after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in the Ramble, a no-dogs-off-leash area. The interaction escalated when the white woman called the police to say that an African American man was threatening her. On July 6, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced that the woman would be charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree.
George Floyd protests
At the end of May, spurred on by a rash of racially charged events including those above, over 450 major protests were held in cities and towns across the United States and three continents. The breaking point was due primarily to the police killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, eventually charged with second degree murder after a video circulated showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for his life, repeating, “I can’t breathe.” Following protesters’ demands for additional prosecutions, three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder.
Black Lives Matter organized rallies in the United States and worldwide from May 30 onwards, with protesters enacting Floyd’s final moments, many lying down in streets and on bridges, yelling “I can’t breathe,” while others marched by the thousands, some carrying signs that read, “Tell your brother in blue, don’t shoot”—“Who do you call when the murderer wears a badge?” and “Justice for George Floyd.” While global in nature and supported by several unassociated organizations, the Black Lives Matter movement has been inextricably linked to these monumental protests. Black Lives Matter called to “defund the police”, a slogan with varying interpretations from police abolition to divestment from police and prisons to reinvestment in social services in communities of color.
On June 5, 2020, Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that part of the street outside of the White House had been officially renamed to Black Lives Matter Plaza posted with a street sign.
On June 7, 2020, in the wake of global George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter’s call to “defund the police”, the Minneapolis City Council voted to “disband its police department” to shift funding to social programs in communities of color. City Council President Lisa Bender said, “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.” The council vote came after the Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department.