Discover the Networks
- Established in 2013, in response to the acquittal of the man who killed black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin
- Seeks to stoke black rage over the “virulent anti-Black racism” that “permeates our society”
- Says America was originally “built on Indigenous genocide and chattel slavery” and “continues to thrive on the brutal exploitation of people of color”
Black Lives Matter (BLM) was established as an online platform in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Their objective was to stoke black rage and galvanize a protest movement in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the “white Hispanic” who was tried for murder and manslaughter after he had shot and killed a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin in a highly publicized February 2012 altercation. Before long, “Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry for writers, public speakers, celebrities, demonstrators, and even rioters who took up the cause of demanding an end to what BLM terms the “virulent anti-Black racism” that “permeates our society.” In 2014, BLM also adopted the slogan “Hands Up–Don’t Shoot!,” which was first popularized by Dream Defenders and grew out of that year’s death of Michael Brown, a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri who was killed by a white police officer after he had tried to take the officer’s handgun during a confrontation. (In the immediate aftermath of that incident, numerous racial agitators circulated the false narrative that Brown had been shot after raising his hands in submission and pleading, “Don’t shoot.”)
Demanding that Americans “abandon the lie that the deep psychological wounds of slavery, racism and structural oppression are figments of the Black imagination,” BLM aims to force the country to become “uncomfortable about institutional racism.” Emphasizing the permanence and intransigence of American depredations, BLM maintains that the nation’s “corrupt democracy” was originally “built on Indigenous genocide and chattel slavery” and “continues to thrive on the brutal exploitation of people of color”; that “the ugly American traditions of patriarchy, classism, racism, and militarism” endure to this day; that “structural oppression” still “prevents so many from realizing their dreams”; and that blacks in the U.S. are routinely “de-humaniz[ed],” rendered “powerless at the hands of the state,” “deprived of [their] basic human rights and dignity,” and targeted for “extrajudicial killings … by police and vigilantes.” In sum, says BLM, black Americans are “collectively” subjected to “inhumane conditions” in a “white supremacist system.”
Though BLM professes to articulate the needs and grievances of black people as a whole, the organization deems it vital to go “beyond the narrow nationalism” that “merely” urges black people to “love Black, live Black, and buy Black.” That is, it focuses an added measure of attention on those blacks who, in the past, “have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.” These include, most notably, black “queer and trans,” who “bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us”; black “undocumented immigrants” who are “relegated to the shadows” of American society; black “disabled” people who “bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy”; and blacks who self-identify along non-traditional points of the “gender spectrum.”
To improve the allegedly abysmal condition of blacks in the United States, BLM has issued a series of non-negotiable demands. These include:
- “an end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our [Blacks’] human rights”;
- “an immediate end to police brutality and [to] the murder of Black people and all oppressed people”;
- “full, living-wage employment for our people,” to ensure “our right to a life with dignity”;
- “decent housing” and “an end to gentrification”;
- the cessation of racially “discriminatory discipline practices” in the schools;
- “an end to the school-to-prison pipeline,” a term for the practice of using black students’ behavioral problems as an excuse for pushing them out of the classroom and into the juvenile- and criminal-justice systems;
- “quality education for all,” including “free or affordable public university” enrollment;
- “freedom from mass incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex,” whose hallmarks include “the over-policing and surveillance of [black] communities,” the enactment of many “racist laws,” and “the warehousing of black people”;
- “access to affordable healthy food for our neighborhoods”;
- “an aggressive attack against all laws, policies, and entities that disenfranchise any community from expressing themselves at the ballot” (e.g., Voter ID laws);
- “a public education system that teaches the rich history of Black people”;
- “the release of all U.S. political prisoners”;
- “an end to the military industrial complex that incentivizes private corporations to profit off of the death and destruction of Black and Brown communities across the globe”;
- a comprehensive Justice Department review of “systematic abuses by police departments” across the United States;
- congressional hearings investigating “the criminalization of communities of color”;
- an end to “the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law-enforcement agencies”;
- the implementation of a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice by the Obama Administration, addressing “persistent and ongoing forms of racial discrimination and disparities that exist in nearly every sphere of life”;
- the release, by the office of U.S. attorney general, of “the names of all [police] officers involved in killing black people within the last five years … so they can be brought to justice—if they haven’t already”; and
- “a decrease in law-enforcement spending at the local, state and federal levels and a reinvestment [through the federal government] of that budgeted money into the black communities most devastated by poverty in order to create jobs, housing and schools.”
Several of the foregoing demands are clearly modeled on those that were put forth by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s.
In December 2014, a group of BLM protesters in the San Francisco Bay area rejected efforts by three regional police unions—in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose—to initiate “constructive dialogue that calls for a common sense approach to very complex issues.”
Black Lives Matter Ties to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization
BLM is closely allied with numerous groups that are fronts for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), a Marxist-Leninist entity that calls for the overthrow of capitalism. Economist and investigative journalist James Simpson has identified some of these FRSO fronts that are tied to BLM:
- National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA): seeks to develop “women-of-color leaders” to help domestic workers—who are disproportionately female and nonwhite—gain political power and promote “concrete change”; gave money to CASA de Maryland and the Institute for Policy Studies in 2013; has received funding from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Oak Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.
- People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER): promotes “social change” by empowering “those people who are most affected by the problems of society”—specifically, “low-income and working class people, people of color, women, queer and transgender people”—to “lead a movement of millions to eradicate those problems”; evolved from the now-defunct revolutionary communist group STORM; has received funding from the Akonadi Foundation, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, the Hill-Snowden Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
- Right to the City Alliance (RTTC): a nationwide network that opposes inner-city “gentrification” that displaces “low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods”; has received funding from the Akonadi Foundation, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Margerite Casey Foundation, the Soros Funds, the Surdna Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
- School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL): strives to “lay the groundwork for a strong social justice movement by supporting the development of a new generation of organizers rooted in a systemic change analysis—especially people of color, young women, queer and transgender youth, and low-income people”; claims to have trained 679 organizers in 2013; has been funded by the Heinz Foundation, the Akonadi Foundation, the Hill-Snowden Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
- Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI): “educates and engages African American and black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice”; has been funded by the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, and the Soros Funds.
- Advancement Project (AP): describes itself as a “civil rights law, policy, and communications ‘action tank’ that advances universal opportunity and a just democracy for those left behind in America,” meaning nonwhite minorities; has been funded by the California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Soros Funds, the Tides Foundation, and the Vanguard Public Foundation.
- Movement Strategy Center (MSC): dedicated to “transformative movement building” and “equitable distribution of resources”; has been funded by the Akonadi Foundation, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Soros Funds, the Surdna Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
- Dignity and Power Now (DPN): claims to seek “dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities”
- Labor/Community Strategy Center (LCSC): works to “build consciousness, leadership, and organization among those who face discrimination and societal attack—people of color, women, immigrants, workers, LGBT people, youth”; is headed by Eric Mann, a former Weather Underground leader who exhorts followers to become “anti-racist, anti-imperialist” activists.
- Black Left Unity Network: a Marxist-Leninist organization that supports a variety of communist causes
- Black Workers for Justice: “believes that African American workers need self-organization to help empower ourselves at the workplace, in communities and throughout the whole of U.S. society to organize, educate, mobilize and struggle for power, justice, self-determination and human rights for African Americans, other oppressed nationalities, women and all working class people”
- Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ): “a national alliance of U.S.-based grassroots organizing groups organizing to build an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color”
- Causa Justa/Just Cause: a Black/Latino solidarity organization that aims to build a “multi-racial, multi-generational movement … for fundamental change”
- Hands Up United: works for the “liberation of oppressed Black, Brown, and poor people through education, art, civil disobedience, advocacy, and agriculture”
- Intelligent Mischief: an African-American organization that “design[s] projects that critique the current status quo and re-imagines the possibilities”
- Organization for Black Struggle (OBS): seeks to “build a movement that fights for political empowerment, economic justice and the cultural dignity of the African-American community, especially the Black working class”; is affiliated with the Communist Party USA; is allied with Black Workers for Justice and the Advancement Project.
- Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC): is dedicated to “uniting revolutionary-minded youth and students throughout the CUNY system in NYC”
- Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ): a “national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice”; quotes BLM co-founder Alicia Garza‘s assertion that “We need you defecting from White supremacy and changing the narrative of White supremacy by breaking White silence.”
- Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE): seeks to “reduce and eliminate structural barriers to social and economic opportunities for poor and economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color”; is led by Anthony Thigpenn, a former Black Panther and board member of the Apollo Alliance.
As evidenced by these numerous ties between FRSO and BLM, Black Lives Matter is in essence a project of FRSO. All three of BLM’s co-founders have been employed by, or affiliated with, one or more of FRSO’s aforementioned front groups at various times. Specifically:
- Alicia Garza has served as a special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA); executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER); a board member of School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL); and board chair of the Right to the City Alliance (RTTC).
- Patrisse Cullors, who was trained by former Weather Underground leader Eric Mann, founded Dignity and Power Now (DPN) and has served as its director.
- Opal Tometi is affiliated with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
The Consequences of BLM’s Rhetoric
In 2013 and beyond, a number of black criminal suspects who had died in the course of confrontations with police officers joined Trayvon Martin as new, martyred icons of the BLM movement. Prominent among these were Eric Garner (New York), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri), Tamir Rice (Cleveland), Timothy Russell (Cleveland), Malissa Williams (Cleveland), and Freddie Gray (Baltimore). High-profile political leaders such as President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the mayors of the cities where the aforementioned deaths took place, routinely depicted race as a major underlying factor in those deaths.
In December 2014, for instance, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio—explicitly exhorting New Yorkers to remember that “black lives matter”—lamented the “centuries of racism” whose legacy was still influencing the actions of too many police officers. The mayor called not only for the retraining of police forces “in how to work with [nonwhite] communities differently,” but also for the use of body cameras to bring “a different level of transparency and accountability” to police work.
And in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in April 2015, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, citing her desire “to reform my [police] department,” called on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a civil-rights investigation to determine whether Baltimore police had been engaging in unconstitutional patterns of abuse or discrimination against African Americans. Moreover, when violent riots were overrunning parts of her city following Gray’s demise, Rawlings-Blake, by her own admission, “gave those who wished to destroy, space to do that as well.” In other words, the police were in effect sidelined.
In New York, Baltimore, and elsewhere in urban America, law-enforcement officers responded to the newly rising anti-police climate by becoming less proactive in apprehending criminals, particularly for low-level offenses. This, in turn, led to a dramatic rise in crime rates in a number of U.S. cities. For example:
- Through the first five months of 2015 in New York, the incidence of murder was 20% higher than for the same period a year earlier, and shooting incidents were up 9%.
- During the three months that followed August 2014 (when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri), homicides in nearby in St. Louis city rose 47%, and robberies in St. Louis County increased by 82%.
- After the protests and riots over the April 12, 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, shootings in that city increased by more than 60% compared to the same period a year earlier. In May 2015, Baltimore recorded 43 murders—the most in any month since August 1972.
- From January to mid-May of 2015 in Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% compared to the same period in 2014.
- From January through March of 2015 in Houston, murders were up nearly 100% compared to the same period in 2014.
- From January 1 through May 24, 2015 in Chicago, shootings were up 25% and homicides were up 18% compared to the same period in 2014.
- From January through May of 2015 in Los Angeles, shootings were up 23% and other violent crime was up 25% compared to the same period in 2014.
For 2015 as a whole, America’s 56 largest cities experienced a 17% rise in homicides; in 10 heavily black cities, murders increased by more tha 60%.
Moreover, some criminals deliberately made police officers the targets of their violence. Less than three weeks after Mayor de Blasio’s December 2014 condemnation of police in New York, for instance, a black gunman named Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two uniformed NYPD officers, execution-style, as they sat in their marked police car. In a Facebook message he had posted just prior to carrying out his double murder, Brinsley made it explicitly clear that his motive was to avenge the recent deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
And of the nineteen police officers nationwide who were killed in the line of duty (by gunshot, assault, or vehicular assault) during the first five months of 2015, ten were killed in the month of May alone; i.e., the month following the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore.
The spike in urban violence nationwide continued into 2016. During the first quarter of that year, homicides in the nation’s 63 largest cities increased by 9%, while nonfatal shootings were up 21%. For the statistics on rising violence rates in a number of specific cities, click here.
On July 7, 2016, BLM activists held anti-police-brutality rallies in numerous cities across the United States, to protest the recent shootings of two African American men by white police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. At a rally in Dallas, Texas, demonstrators shouted “Enough is enough!” while they held signs bearing slogans like: “If all lives matter, why are black ones taken so easily?” Then, suddenly, at just before 9 pm, a gunman opened fire on the law-enforcement officers who were on duty at that rally (in Dallas). Four policemen and one transit officer were killed, and six additional police were wounded. The perpetrator, Micah Xavier Johnson, subsequently told a hostage negotiator that he had acted alone, was angry about the recent police shootings of two black men, and was determined to kill white people — “especially white officers.”
In the wake of the carnage in Dallas, a number of BLM activists taunted uniformed police officers who were standing guard in front of a gas station. Some Twitter users posted footage of a local news report that showed approximately 300 to 400 protesters dancing, shouting at police, and raising their middle fingers to them. Moreover, BLM sympathizers posted numerous online tweets to express their approval of the mass shooting. Some examples:
- “Y’all pigs got what was coming for y’all.”
- “GIVE A F*CK ABOUT DALLAS AND THEM PIGS F*CK EM ALL”
- “wtf! Is when whites think their superior than us! Dallas must burn,black lives matter now, got the message pigs!”
- “These f*cking pigs deserve Dallas, and every incident after Dallas until reform. F*cking disgusting animals.”
- “Next time a group wants to organize a police shoot, do like Dallas tonight, but have extra men/women to flank the Pigs!”
- “dude hell yeah someone is shooting pigs in dallas. solidarity”
- “Shout out to them Dallas shooters !! rapping pigs in blankets”
- “DALLAS keep smoking dem pigs keep up the work.”
On July 9, 2016, activists participating in a BLM protest in Phoenix threw rocks at police officers and threatened to kill them.
These attacks against police officers, and the aforementioned increases in urban crime, are not at all troubling to BLM, because, notwithstanding the movement’s constant professions of deep concern about black lives, the reality is quite different. What matters most to BLM is finding a spark—e.g., allegations of police vigilantism—that can be used to ignite a race war; to take America back to the “long hot summers” of the 1960s, when criminals were seen as radical “heroes,” police had a bull’s-eye on their backs, and the streets of America’s inner cities ran red with fantasies of “revolutionary violence.”
More Black Lives Matter (BLM) Activities
In April 2015, BLM held a “Populism 2015” assembly at a Washington, DC hotel. The event was sponsored by National People’s Action, the Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and the Alliance for a Just Society.
On May 28, 2015, BLM held an event at the Center for American Progress titled “Toward a More Perfect Union: Bringing Criminal Justice Reform to Our Communities.” At this gathering, writes journalist Matthew Vadum: “[B]lack activists blamed the rising tide of black violence against police and whites on everyone except the perpetrators.” They cited such root causes as the evils of capitalism, white privilege, excessive numbers of laws and police officers, corporate malfeasance, and insufficient taxes levied on the wealthy.
In a July 2015 Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona, BLM-affiliated protesters disrupted talks by two Democratic presidential candidates—U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley—shouting at both men: “Say that black lives matter! Say that I am not a criminal! Say my name!” O’Malley, for his part, responded by appealing for a sense of unity: “I think all of us have a responsibility to recognize the pain and grief caused by lives lost to violence. Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” These remarks by O’Malley caused the demonstrators to become enraged, and they proceeded to boo loudly and shout him down.
“If I die in police custody, don’t believe the hype. I was murdered!
Protect my family! Indict the system! Shut that sh*t down!
If I die in police custody, avenge my death!
By any means necessary!
If I die in police custody, burn everything down!
No building is worth more than my life!
And that’s the only way motherf***ers like you listen!
If I die in police custody, make sure I’m the last person to die in police custody.
By any means necessary!
If I die in police custody, do not hold a moment of silence for me!
Rise the f*** up!
Because your silence is killing us!”
On August 29, 2015—just hours after a lone black gunman had murdered a white sheriff’s deputy in Texas while the latter was pumping gasoline into his car—demonstrators affiliated with the St. Paul, Minnesota branch of BLM disrupted traffic as they marched—with police protection—to the gates of the Minnesota State Fair. Carrying signs bearing slogans like “End White Supremacy,” they repeatedly chanted in unison: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon.” “Pigs” was a reference to police officers, and “blanket” was a reference to body bags. The slogan echoed what gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsleyan had posted on the Internet—”Pigs in a blanket smell like bacon”—in December 2014, just before he murdered NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
During the September 1, 2015 airing of a blog-talk-radio program associated with BLM, the hosts laughed at the recent assassination of Texas Deputy Daron Goforth, a husband and father who was shot 15 times at point blank range from behind while he was gassing up his patrol car. One host, a self-described black supremacist known as King Noble, said the execution of that “cracker cop” was an indication that “it’s open season on killing whites and police officers and probably killing cops, period.” “It’s unavoidable, inescapable,” he added. “It’s funny that now we are moving to a time where the predator will become the prey.” After claiming that blacks were like lions who could win a “race war” against whites, Noble declared: “Today, we live in a time when the white man will be picked off, and there’s nothing he can do about it. His day is up, his time is up. We will witness more executions and killing of white people and cops than we ever have before. It’s about to go down. It’s open season on killing white people and crackas.”
On September 14, 2015, BLM supporter/demonstrator Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, a 25-year-old convicted felon, shot and killed a rookie Kentucky state trooper named Joseph Cameron Ponder after a high-speed chase. The perpetrator lived in Florissant, Missouri, near the town of Ferguson, and had participated in local demonstrations protesting the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a young black man killed by a white Ferguson police officer after he had tried to take the officer’s handgun. (Click here for details of that case.) Johnson-Shanks was so preoccupied with the Brown case, that he even attended Brown’s funeral and graveside service in August 2014.
On October 24, 2015, members of the BLM-affiliated Black Youth Project (BYP) took down an American flag during their #StopTheCops street protests in Chicago, replacing it with one that read “Unapologetically Black.” Like BLM, BYP opposes increased spending on law enforcement, as one of its activists, Maria Hadden, explained: “To provide better education, to provide access to basic human needs, housing and healthcare, those are the ways that we address crime. Those are the ways we improve the city, not by spending more money on police. So we believe we need to spend less money on policing, more money on community services.” Some BYP protestors taunted the police by singing, “Stop cops, stop cops, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when we defund you?” to the tune of the Bad Boys theme song from the television show COPS.
On November 12, 2015, a group of approximately 150 BLM protesters shouting “black lives matter” and racial obscenities stormed Dartmouth University’s library, shouting, “F*** you, you filthy white f***s!,” “F*** you and your comfort!,” and “F*** you, you racist s***!” A report in the Dartmouth Review said:
“Throngs of protesters converged around fellow students who had not joined in their long march. They confronted students who bore ‘symbols of oppression’: ‘gangster hats’ and Beats-brand headphones. The flood of demonstrators self-consciously overstepped every boundary, opening the doors of study spaces with students reviewing for exams. Those who tried to close their doors were harassed further. One student abandoned the study room and ran out of the library. The protesters followed her out of the library, shouting obscenities the whole way. Students who refused to listen to or join their outbursts were shouted down. ‘Stand the f*** up!’ ‘You filthy racist white piece of s***!’ Men and women alike were pushed and shoved by the group. ‘If we can’t have it, shut it down!’ they cried. Another woman was pinned to a wall by protesters who unleashed their insults, shouting ‘filthy white b****!’ in her face.”
In mid-November 2015, students gathered at Kean University in New Jersey to stand in solidarity with BLM protests that were taking place at the University of Missouri. One of the participants at the Kean event was 24-year-old Kayla-Simone McKelvey, a Kean alumnus and self-proclaimed black activist who had graduated six months earlier. About midway through the rally, McKelvey slipped away and went to the university library, where she secretly and hastily created an anonymous Twitter account, @keanuagainstblk, and stated in its description that it was an account “against blacks” and “for everyone who hates blacks people.”[sic] McKelvey then sent her first “anonymous” tweet: a bomb threat to the campus. She followed that up with tweets that read: (a) “i will kill every black male and female at kean university”; (b) “i will kill all blacks tonight, tomorrow, and any other day if they go to Kean university”; and (c) “tell every black person that you know they will die if they go to #Keanuniversity”. According to police, McKelvey then returned to the rally and began spreading the word that she had “discovered” the aforementioned Twitter threats against black students. McKelvey was subsequently charged with third-degree “creating a false public alarm” and was ordered to appear in court on December 14.
In a February 2016 interview with Fox News, the co-founder of BLM’s Seattle chapter, Marissa Jenae Johnson, described the phrase “All lives matter” as a “new racial slur.” “White Americans have created the conditions that require a phrase like ‘Black Likes Matter,’” she said. “Do you know how horrific it is to grow up as a child in a world that so hates you? While you’re literally being gunned down in the street, while you’re being rounded up and mass incarcerated and forced into prison slavery.” “Black Lives Matter is not a strong enough statement for me,” she added.
Support for BLM from President Obama and the Democratic Party
In August 2015, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) officially endorsed BLM by approving a resolution that condemned “the unacceptable epidemic of extrajudicial killings of unarmed black men, women, and children at the hands of police”; stated that the American Dream “is a nightmare for too many young people stripped of their dignity under the vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow and White Supremacy”; demanded the “demilitarization of police, ending racial profiling, criminal justice reform, and investments in young people, families, and communities”; and asserted that “without systemic reform this state of [black] unrest jeopardizes the well-being of our democracy and our nation.”
On September 16, 2015, BLM activists Brittney Packnett, DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, Phillip Agnew, and Jamye Wooten met at the White House with President Obama as well as senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and other administration officials. For Packnett, it was her seventh visit to the Obama White House. Afterward, Packnett told reporters that the president personally supported the BLM movement. “He offered us a lot of encouragement with his background as a community organizer, and told us that even incremental changes were progress,” she stated. “He didn’t want us to get discouraged. He said, ‘Keep speaking truth to power.’”
In October 2015, Obama publicly articulated his support for BLM’s agenda by saying: “I think the reason that the organizers [of BLM] used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”
In a December 2015 interview on National Public Radio, Obama described Black Lives Matter as a positive force on policing in America, notwithstanding the violence and incendiary rhetoric exhibited by many of its members. Noting that “sometimes progress is a little uncomfortable,” the president claimed that BLM was doing the vital work of shining “sunlight” on the fact that “there’s no black family that hasn’t had a conversation around the kitchen table about driving while black and being profiled or being stopped” by police. “You know,” he elaborated, “during that process there’s going to be some noise and some discomfort, but I m absolutely confident that over the long term, it leads to a fair, more just, healthier America.”
At a Black History Month event at the White House in February 2016, Obama welcomed BLM leaders DeRay McKesson and Brittany Packnett (the latter of whom was one of the key “Hands up, don’t shoot” propagandists who in 2014 promoted the lie that a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri had shot black teenager Michael Brown in cold blood as he tried to surrender). Obama also welcomed such notables as activist Al Sharpton, Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill. In the course of his remarks, Obama said: “But we’ve also got some young people here who are making history as we speak. People like Brittany [Packnett], who served on our Police Task Force in the wake of Ferguson, and has led many of the protests that took place there and shined a light on the injustice that was happening. People like DeRay Mckesson, who has done some outstanding work mobilizing in Baltimore around these issues. And to see generations continuing to work on behalf of justice and equality and economic opportunity is greatly encouraging to me…. They are much better organizers than I was at their age. I am confident they are going to take America to new heights.”
In July 2016, Obama likened BLM to the abolition and suffrage movements of yesteryear, saying: “The abolition movement was contentious. The effort for women to get the right to vote was contentious and messy. There were times when activists might have engaged in rhetoric that was overheated and occasionally counterproductive. But the point was to raise issues so that we, as a society, could grapple with it. The same was true with the Civil Rights Movement, the union movement, the environmental movement, the antiwar movement during Vietnam. And I think what you’re seeing now is part of that longstanding tradition.” (Obama also said: “[W]henever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause. First of all, any violence directed at police officers is a reprehensible crime and needs to be prosecuted. But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush, without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people and do so fairly and without racial bias, if our rhetoric does not recognize that, then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.” This assertion, however, was entirely inconsistent with the many statements the president had previously made about the allegedly systemic bias and racism of the entire criminal-justice system.)
BLM’s Anti-Israel Orientation
In January 2015, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors joined representatives from the Dream Defenders as well as a number of likeminded anti-police-brutality protesters in taking a 10-day trip to the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank. Their objective was to publicly draw a parallel between what they defined as Israeli oppression of the Palestinians in the Middle East, and police violence against blacks in the United States. A complete list of the delegates who made this trip included five Dream Defenders (Phillip Agnew, Ciara Taylor, Steven Pargett, Sherika Shaw, Ahmad Abuznaid); Tef Poe and Tara Thompson from Ferguson/Hands Up United; journalist Marc Lamont Hill; Cherrell Brown and Carmen Perez of the Justice League NYC; Charlene Carruthers from the Black Youth Project; poet and artist Aja Monet; and USC doctoral student Maytha Alhassen.
In August 2015, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors was one of more than 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, politicians, students, “political prisoners,” and organizational representatives to sign a statement proclaiming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people”; demanding an end to Israel’s “occupation” of “Palestine”; condemning “Israel’s brutal war on Gaza and chokehold on the West Bank”; urging the U.S. government to end all aid to Israel; and exhorting black institutions to support the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement against the Jewish state. Key passages from the letter included the following:
- “Palestinians on Twitter were among the first to provide international support for protesters in Ferguson, where St. Louis-based Palestinians gave support on the ground. Last November, a delegation of Palestinian students visited Black organizers in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit and more, just months before the Dream Defenders took representatives of Black Lives Matter, Ferguson, and other racial justice groups to Palestine. Throughout the year, Palestinians sent multiple letters of solidarity to us throughout protests in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore. We offer this statement to continue the conversation between our movements.”
- “We remain outraged at the brutality Israel unleashed on Gaza through its siege by land, sea and air, and three military offensives in six years. We remain sickened by Israel’s targeting of homes, schools, UN shelters, mosques, ambulances, and hospitals. We remain heartbroken and repulsed by the number of children Israel killed in an operation it called ‘defensive.’ We reject Israel’s framing of itself as a victim. Anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter.”
- “Israel’s injustice and cruelty toward Palestinians is not limited to Gaza and its problem is not with any particular Palestinian party. The oppression of Palestinians extends throughout the occupied territories, within Israel’s 1948 borders, and into neighboring countries. The Israeli Occupation Forces continue to kill protesters—including children—conduct night raids on civilians, hold hundreds of people under indefinite detention, and demolish homes while expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements.”
- “Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”
- “Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.”
- “Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including thepolitical imprisonment of our own revolutionaries.”
- “U.S. and Israeli officials and media criminalize our existence, portray violence against us as ‘isolated incidents,’ and call our resistance ‘illegitimate’ or ‘terrorism.’ These narratives ignore decades and centuries of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black violence that have always been at the core of Israel and the US. We recognize the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is also directed against others in the region, including intolerance, police brutality, and violence against Israel’s African population.”
- “We know Israel’s violence toward Palestinians would be impossible without the U.S. defending Israel on the world stage and funding its violence with over $3 billion annually. We call on the U.S. government to end economic and diplomatic aid to Israel. We wholeheartedly endorse Palestinian civil society’s 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and call on Black and U.S. institutions and organizations to do the same. We urge people of conscience to recognize the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a key matter of our time.”
- “[W]e aim to sharpen our practice of joint struggle against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and the various racisms embedded in and around our societies.”
Prominent BLM Activist Arrested on Sex-Trafficking Charges
In May 2016, 33-year-old BLM activist Charles Wade, who had been profiled in several newspapers and had recently been invited to the Obama White House along with others from his organization, was indicted on seven criminal charges including felonious sex trafficking (for pimping out a 17-year-old girl). The charges carried sentences of up to 25 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
BLM Blames “White Supremacy” and the “Conservative Right” for Jihadist’s Mass Murder in Florida
On June 21, 2016 — a few days after a self-proclaimed Muslim jihadist used an AR-15 rifle to murder 49 people and wound 53 others in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — BLM posted an article on its website that blamed “white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia of the conservative right” for the atrocity. It read, in part, as folows:
“Despite the media’s framing of this as a terrorist attack, we are very clear that this terror is completely homegrown, born from the anti-Black white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia of the conservative right and of those who would use religious extremism as a weapon to gain power for the few and take power from the rest. Those who seek to profit from our deaths hope we will forget who our real enemy is, and blame Muslim communities instead….
“Homegrown terror is the product of a long history of colonialism, including state and vigilante violence. It is the product of white supremacy and capitalism, which deforms the spirit and fuels interpersonal violence. We especially hold space for our Latinx family now, knowing that the vast majority of those murdered were Latinx, and many were specifically Puerto Rican. From the forced migration of thousands of young people from the island of Puerto Rico to Orlando, to the deadly forced migration throughout Latin America and the Caribbean — we know this is not the first time in history our families have been mowed down with malice, and we stand with you.
“Religious extremism is not new to America and is not unique to Islam. For centuries, religion has been used to subjugate queer people of color and lay the groundwork for our deaths. We live in a society that gasps at mass murder but does little to produce the policies or radical ideological shift needed to keep LGBTQ people and our families alive and safe….
“We will not allow our movement to be dominated by white progressives that still attempt to define our solutions and limit our leadership. We will not allow the vision to be stunted by a gun control agenda with neither racial context nor a clear history of the relationship between white supremacy and guns in the United States…. You cannot decry guns without also decrying how those guns were used to take Native land, to enslave Black bodies, to remake “Latin America”, and to redefine the western hemisphere. We need more than legislation, more than vigils and prayers, more than donations — we need a deep transformation at the cellular levels of this nation….
“We need a world that realizes that the word ‘terrorist’ is not synonymous with Muslim, any more than ‘criminal’ is synonymous with Black. The enemy is now and has always been the four threats of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and militarism. These forces and not Islam create terrorism. These forces, and not queerness, create homophobia. These forces unleash destruction primarily on those who are Trans, and queer, and brown and Black, and we are the first to experience its violence…. Until these systems are defeated, until anti-Blackness no longer fuels anti-Muslim and anti-queer and trans bigotry, exploitation, and exclusion — we can never be truly free.”
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