Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement that came into being in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman of murder charges relating to the death of Trayvon Martin. Martin was tracked and shot fatally by Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. As a result of the act, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder but acquitted in July 2013 because he was exercising self-defense (Bates npr.org). This acquitted sparked protests among black communities in Sanford and later expanded to other parts of the country as more cases of shootings of black men became common. BLM was initially started online by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi (The Economist). This was seen in rallies, protest whereby participants often carried placards and wore T-shirts that ascribed to the movement. However, the movement began creating a grassroots presence as it spread to other parts of the country. Today, it is active countrywide and even present outside the US.
The Goal of BLM
As per the information posted on its website, the BLM movement is meant to create an avenue for justice for African-Americans by organizing black communities at the local level to deal with what is termed as violence from the state and vigilante groups. As seen in its activities, the goal of the movement is to raise awareness about alleged police brutality has been found to be motivated by racial differences of the victims and police officers. In many of the cases, the families of the victims of the high-profile shootings done by white police officers feel that they do not receive justice as most officers are not convicted. Besides, the movement focuses on resolving issues related to politics. The goal is to make sure that black communities participate in the political process as a way of securing the enactment of laws that protect the lives of minority groups especially African-Americans (The Economist). So, the movement seeks to ensure that the issue of shootings of black people is addressed through mass action and justice is done through the courts.
How the Law Enforcement Responded to the BLM
Law enforcement has responded to the BLM in varied ways. For one, police launched ambushes on the activities of the movement. The raids were often characterized by clashes with police. The protesters were arrested and charged. For instance, when Micah Xavier Johnson and Micah Xavier Johnson killed and wounded police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge respectively, the law enforcement agents responded with excessive, launching lethal raids. The raids pitted black communities and the police. The raids showed the extent to which the relationship of black communities and police had deteriorated. The negative side of this response was that it made matters worse in the whole issue of the relationship between law enforcers and African-Americans. The raids show that law enforcement agencies were not willing to listen to the issues raised by the BLM (Nagin heinz.cmu.edu). As a consequence, responses weaponized which often leads to abuse of the law.
Another response from the law enforcement was increased surveillance on the BLM leading activities. From records of emails and reports circulated to all agencies in 2016, it is observed that the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). After the fatal shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge police used public statements that distanced the shooters from the BLM but warned the public against committing violence against the law enforcement officers. However, after human rights groups made petitions for data relating to the movement, the records showed that the FBI and DHS conducted surveillance on BLM because they considered it a threat to national security (Vohra). Secretly spying on the communications and activities of the BLM raised questions regarding rights of privacy. These actions even generated debates on the police conduct and for respect for the rights of privacy.
Moreover, there was an increased in the cases where police officers were dismissed due to their involvement in the shootings of African-American. As the cases of victims such as Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Jordan Edwards caused a national uproar about police brutality, the agencies that employ police officers showed a higher involvement in disciplining the law enforcement officers implicated in the shootings (Yan cnn.com). Although critics of this reaction say that law enforcement is not doing enough, the increased demand has seen more focus given to the issue of relationships between police and black communities.
Possible Impact of BLM on the Future of Police
BLM has been instrumental in raising the awareness of the cold relationship between African-American communities and the law enforcement agencies. This means that there will be more scrutiny on the activities of police officers and the agencies that employ them. This is because there is a higher expectation on the part of police in their law enforcement engagements. For their employers, there is an increased expectation to discipline officers who will be perpetrators of shootings of blacks in the course of their duty. A potential consequence of this expectation is that the police as a whole are likely to be under pressure to appease the public in case of shootings involving police officers and black men. For instance, after the recent shooting in Alabama mall shows that police are desperate to appease the public. In their initial report, the police said Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford had fired the shorts but later changed the statement (Mihiri). This show the pressure the police are in, and it can be expected such high expectations can lead to either suppression of evidence or insufficient investigations when disciplining police officers.
The increased scrutiny of the police and high demands for accountability brought about by the BLM is likely to lead to a revision of policies. As a result, more focus would be given to law enforcement strategies that improve relationships between black communities and the police. This is expected to be done by revising the police curriculum and other measures that center on building positive attitudes between the citizens and police officers (Nagin heinz.cmu.edu). Already some states have enacted regulations requiring police to wear mandatory cameras while on duty (Yan cnn.com). This is likely to be adopted in more states in the country as courts and prosecutions continue to embrace videotapes as evidence in determining whether a police officer acted within the law in the case of shootings.
As a conclusion, BLM was formed in 2013 to defend the rights of African-Americans following shooting incidents involving the police and black men. As the activities of the movement intensified, the police responded with brutal force on protesters, especially in cases where police officers were killed. Even the FBI and DHS conducted surveillance on BLM activities. The possible impact of the activities of BLM is that the curriculum would be revised to adopt strategies that promote a warm relationship with the police through community-based initiatives.
Bates, Karen G. "A Look Back At Trayvon Martin's Death, And The Movement It Inspired." NPR.org, 31 July 2018, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/07/31/631897758/a-look-back-at-trayvon-martins-death-and-the-movement-it-inspired.
Holly , Yan ."Black Lives Matter' Cases: What Happened After Controversial Police Killings." CNN, 2017.
Black Lives Matter. "History." Blacks Lives Matter, 2018, blacklivesmatter.com/about/herstory/.
Sweta ,Vohra ."Documents Show US Monitoring of Black Lives Matter." Aljazeera, 2017.
The Economist. "Black Lives Matter is Becoming Slightly More Conventional." The Economist, 2018.
Nagin, Daniel. "Police, Violence, and Data: The Black Lives Matter Movement." Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, 2017, www.heinz.cmu.edu/media/2017/january/police-violence-data.
Zaveri, Mihiri. "Black Man Killed by Officer in Alabama Mall Shooting Was Not the Gunman, Police Now Say." The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2018.
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