What You Should Know About the Black Lives Matter Movement

In the wake of the decision to cancel the protest at the St. Paul Crashed Ice event this weekend, as well as the protests that shut down the Green Line light rail earlier in the fall and the stakeout at the 4th precinct police station, many are looking to gain a better understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement. To gain a better understanding of this movement, it is necessary to understand their foundation, motives, and goals, and to look in to how the larger movement is transcending the Twin-Cities area.

#BlackLivesMatter was founded by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old Floridian shot by George Zimmerman (who was found innocent). The organization’s website calls the movement “an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The site fails to convey who is targeting black lives for “demise,” or what policies contribute to it.

Black Lives Matter did not take off in popularity until after 18-year old Mike Brown was killed by Darren Wilson (who was found innocent). The organization’s website asserts that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is meant to exclaim that black people are deprived “basic human rights and dignity” and “It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence.”

Locally and nationally the group has run into criticism that the organization lacks clear goals. The national organization’s website simply asserts, “In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position.” In addition, the site argues that it’s a misconception that the movement has no goals, stating it wants police forces to be demilitarized, official government tracking of police killings (disaggregated by race), and “swift and transparent legal investigations of all police shootings of black people.” What remains to be seen is what each of these goals looks like in action. For example, the group wants demilitarization, but what does that mean? No riot gear? No semi-automatic weapons? Semi-automatic weapons for certain police operations? Broad goals are given, but specific policy provisions are not. In addition, some Black Lives Matters Activists call for reparations, while supporters like Bernie Sanders disagree with this idea.

Black Lives Matter chapters in the Twin Cities also suffer from a lack of concrete policy goals as well. On February 1st, 2015  State Senator Tom Bakk (district 3) told an audience at the 2016 legislative preview session that Black lives matter lacks specific goals, asserting: “I think they probably need to do more — the Black Lives Matter type movement — to identify a  specific goal. And I haven’t seen anybody really articulate that yet.” Bakk compares Black Lives Matter to Occupy Wall Street, conveying his point of view that the movement will fade like Occupy Wall street if goals aren’t articulated.

Recently, St. Paul’s chapter of Black Lives Matter made noise after Alpha News reported on St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter chapter calling Governor Dayton a white supremacist. In addition, Black Lives Matter has compiled a list of seven demands needed to be met prior to a protest at Red Bull’s Crashed Ice event in St. Paul, and if met the group would contemplate the ending of “Black Ice” (shutting down of the Red Bull Crashed Ice event). The group did cancel the event stating in a press release that their demands have been “addressed.” Alpha News spoke with one of the leaders of St.Paul’s Black Lives Matter chapter just a few months ago.

Outside of demands that the local chapters place on localities and the state government, they have failed to offer specific policy provisions they would like to see put in place. Neither St Paul nor Minneapolis’ chapters provide any concrete policy provisions on their Facebook or Twitter pages. In this sense, the state chapters are in close correspondence with the national movement in that neither have provided law makers at the local, state and federal levels proposals of which they can utilize to create laws the organization would find favorable.

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