- + What is the Black Lives Matter movement?
- + Trump unable to calm the masses
- + Are we on the verge of social change?
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement founded in 2013 following the murder of Trayvon Martin. It is a global organisation and is mostly operative in the US, UK, and Canada. Their mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” BLM seeks equality and equity; specifically for the African-American communities, by campaigning against violence and systemic racism in racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
It would be close to impossible to not have noticed the rising voices and actions by the BLM organisation following the murder of George Floyd on the 25th of May 2020. The widespread video of the event pictured a police officer kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck even after he pleaded he could not breathe; ultimately resulting in his death. This event has brought into global attention the reignited, deep-seated anger against social biases and inequality; especially in the US, leading to the widespread public unrest seen the past few days.
To summarise the turn of events, police officer Derek Chauvin arrested Floyd for using a counterfeit $20 bill at a shop. While the police claimed Floyd resisted the arrest, security cameras of nearby businesses have shown the opposite. Consequently, Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia (lack of oxygen) due to compression on his neck and back. In the following two days, the four responding officers were fired, and after an additional two days, Chauvin was arrested. Interestingly, he is the first white officer in Minnesota to be charged for the death of a black civilian. Eventually, Chauvin was also charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The unfortunate incident has brought into light that officer Chauvin already had various violent complaints filed against him. Moreover, it was found that both the victim and perpetrator worked as security guards in a club at the same time. Soon after, Chauvin’s wife divorced him and changed her surname…sending a strong statement, to say the least.
Responding to the unfortunate event, supporting voices for the BLM cause have been rising around the world on social media. The corporate world has joined the cause as Netflix, Facebook, Nike, Peloton, and many more companies have voiced their political stand against racism. Celebrities and influencers of all nationalities and across platforms have also directed their audience to join and/or support the cause in various ways. #BlackoutTuesday, which was initiated by the music industry, is another recent trend where users of social media platforms, especially Instagram, voiced their support by posting a black picture and ‘blacking out’ the platform.
The movement has not only had a global reach through social media, but riots and protests are taking place in over 200 cities throughout the 50 states of the US, as well as in London, France, Spain, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some protests have been peaceful and police and state department forces have visibly joined, wearing their uniforms to show their support against police brutality and violence. Unfortunately, other protests have turned violent: in various cities in the US, protestors lit fires, destroyed personal and corporate property, and so far at least 7 people have been shot and killed in the protests. It was even reported that the President was placed in the presidential bunker for the first time since September 11, 2001. Yet, it is important to acknowledge that not all participants support the violence, and on various occasions, protestors were documented protecting police personnel. Nonetheless, violence is rightfully concerning the local authorities and other political leaders.
In response, President Trump has threatened the use of military forces to calm the masses. To do so, Trump would need to first acquire a request from the local governor and invoke the Insurrection Act which was last invoked in Los Angeles in 1992 during riots that followed the police assault of Black motorist Rodney King. Naturally, Trump’s responses have been heavily criticised, his Tweets were even identified by Twitter as “glorifying violence:”
Of course, Trump wasn’t very happy with Twitter.
With a clear lack of understanding of the social issue at hand, rather than calming the masses with addressing and acknowledging the need for social change, Trump has been adding fuel to the fire. As a result, the forced curfews fail to stop demonstrations and some streets are continuing to (in some cases, literally) burn.
This is the biggest event of its kind in the 21st century, and will hopefully lead to a social turning point when it comes to social biases. The need for a change, however, doesn’t simply stop in the English speaking countries and unfortunately, racism has not stopped with decolonisation, as some may like to think. The BLM movement only adds to the angry masses that have been seeking a social change in Hong Kong, Lebanon, and many more countries. Thus, these social biases are not only with the colours of one’s skin but by his or her gender, religion, culture, and class. The way events will turn with this movement and its social implications have therefore greater consequences on the rest of the world… For now, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is still pending, so people are still marching.