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What is the Black Lives Matter movement?

#BlackLivesMatter is used on social media but where did the movement come from and what does it mean


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for a number of years to highlight issues of racism, discrimination and police brutality in black communities. Police brutality or police violence is when police officers use more force than is needed when dealing with a member of the public. This goes against a person’s human rights.

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Why did the Black Lives Matter Movement begin?

People first began to use ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ on social media in 2013 when George Zimmerman, an American man who idetifies as Hispanic, was found not guilty of the murder of a 17 year old black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Martin was visiting his dad’s fiancée in Florida when he was fatally shot by Zimmerman, who had followed him through the neighbourhood and called the police, because he thought Martin looked ‘suspicious’. They got into a fight, which is when Martin was shot by Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was unarmed.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He claimed the shooting was self-defense, and was found not guilty. The Department of Justice reviewed the case to see if any human rights were broken but said they did not have enough evidence to file any other charges.

After the verdict, a woman in California, Alicia Garza, wrote a post on Facebook ending it with “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter”. Another woman, Patrisse Cullors, responded with #BlackLivesMatter and from there the hashtag was created. Alicia and Patrisse are two of three people who founded the Black Lives Matter Foundation.

What does the Black Lives Matter movement do?

Since then the movement has become known for protests and street demonstrations against racism, violence towards black people, and more recently for police brutality in black communities. Although the movement started in America, it is now global. Many other countries have joined the movement and hold protests and street demonstrations locally. These groups support justice for black people within their own countries but also international cases, such as the murder of George Floyd in America.

While many people use ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ on social media, the a Black Lives Matter Foundation focuses on different campaigns each year to fight for equality for black communities and to highlight the issues black people, particularly in America, continue to face.

#WhatMatters2020 campaign

In 2020 the Black Lives Matter movement is focusing on a campaign for the U.S. Presidential election to encourage people to ask themselves and the candidates if they are focusing on ‘What Matters’ in 2020 before they vote. They aim to highlight many issues such as police brutality, racial injustice, access to healthcare and access to quality education for black communities.

What has the movement achieved so far?

The movement is currently made up of 38 different communities who work hard to demand an end to police brutality, change policy, highlight the voices of black people, run for office and support all black people. Through the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, the movement has been able to reach a much wider online audience which supports people to stand in solidarity with other participants.

Organised Demonstrations

The movement has been behind many high profile campaigns and protests where people have come together following violence towards black people or the unjust death of a member of the black community.

These include protesting after the death of Michael Brown, an 18 year old teenager who was shot six times in 2014 by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Another high profile case involved Eric Garner, who also died in 2014 after he was put in a chokehold by a police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who arrested him on suspicion of selling single cigarettes. The incident was videoed and showed the police officer putting his arms around Garner’s neck and wrestling him to the ground. Garner repeated the words "I can’t breathe" 11 times while lying face down on the sidewalk. After this incident, protesters began using the phrase “I can’t breathe” on posters and in artwork.

Most recently the Black Lives Matter movement have been protesting after the murder of George Floyd, a 46 year old unarmed black man who was killed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

These are just some examples of the many incidents that sparked the Black Lives Matter Movement into action, where they have held large protests in the areas these cases happened.

How you can support the Black Lives Matter Movement

If you would like to support the movement you can sign up to the Black Lives Matter newsletter for updates, petitions and information on their global actions and campaigns.

For more information on what is happening in Ireland against racism and direct provision check out the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) and the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR).

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Published June 3rd2020
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