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‘We Want Safety, Dignity And Justice’: Black Lives Matter Protests Build Nationwide

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‘We Want Safety, Dignity And Justice’: Black Lives Matter Protests Build Nationwide

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Protestor Ieshia Evans is approached by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Published with permission from Alternet.

“We don’t have the same rights as our white counterparts,” 17-year-old Myra Richardson, a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, told AlterNet over the phone. “There are still things holding us back. How can we call America the land of the free?”

Richardson is one of countless young people from Miami to New York to Minneapolis who took to the streets over the weekend to rally under the banner of Black Lives Matter, braving heavily armedpolice deployments and a charged political environment in which they are being demonized by some for exercising their right to protest.

For Richardson the cause is personal, as Alton Sterling was a known member of the community, and the Triple S Food Mart where he was shot to death by police is a popular spot.

“The youth have lived through so many atrocities, but we’re still optimistic, still trying to do work,” said Richardson, who is a member of a community organization called #thewave and said she speaks on behalf of fellow classmates Raheejah Flowers and Jeanette Jackson, both 15. “There have been marches and gatherings all over Baton Rouge. We’ve seen groups from all over the United States come down. We have all these things stacked against us, but there are still people mobilizing and trying.”

Richardson is part of a generation of young people who have grown up seeing images of black and brown youth who look like them shot and killed by police. Police killings of black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow, according to Quartz reporter Annalisa Merelli. During that year, 1,146 people were killed by police, the Guardian reports, in what is likely a conservative estimate due to theunderreporting of law enforcement killings. In 2015, young black men werenine times more likely to be killed by police than the general population, and black people overall were killed at twice the rate of their white, Latino and native American counterparts.

The fact that police killings are calculated by media organizations at all is a victory of the sustained protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite heightened visibility, the killing continues. According to the Guardian, 571 people have been killed by police so far in 2016. The Washington Post putthis number at 512.

These numbers were made painfully real with the back-to-back police killings of African-Americans Sterling and Philando Castile.

Campaigners say that now is an important time to mobilize. “Guided by love, we continue to stand together for justice, human dignity and our shared goal of ending all forms of state violence against black people,” declared the Movement for Black Lives in a widely circulating pledge. “We organize, occupy, demonstrate, march and chant for a new future: A future we can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, who fought for their freedom and ours. Like them, we want a world where our lives matter.”

Yet in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, protesters face an escalated crackdown, despite the fact that there are no proven ties between the gunman and the Black Lives Matter protesters. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement released July 8. “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”

Aesha Rasheed, a New Orleans resident and organizer with Southerners On New Ground, traveled to Baton Rouge over the weekend to join the protests. “In this moment, not only have we lost someone to police violence in such a wrong way, but we also are in position where they have made protesting illegal,” said Rasheed, referring to a controversial Louisiana “Blue Lives Matter” bill that will go into effect August 1.

“I was at the protest on the capitol steps and the youth from Baton Rouge were there telling their stories, making their demands about the change they want to see,” said Rasheed. “People are still dying, still being killed, don’t tell us to sit down and not continue to go out into the streets.”

Under the guise of public safety, police departments across the country have used the Dallas shootings to call for increased police militarization and surveillance nationwide. “This will cause complaints about violating people’s constitutional rights to free assembly, but it is the only way to guarantee safety,” Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, toldReuters.

But according to Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and organizer with Black Lives Matter-ATL, “This is a moment to organize and challenge the conversation about what is public safety and who is defining it. We have to redefine it because it’s not the folks whose neighborhoods are being occupied having a say, instead it’s being defined by more police, more surveillance, more probation, being funneled into the municipal court system. Public safety feels like booby traps to us as black people. We pay a regressive tax with our time and our lives.”

“We want safety, dignity and justice,” Hooks told AlterNet. “For black folks in particular, we have a mandate: to avenge the sufferings of our ancestors, earn the respect of future generations and be transformed in the service of the work. That is what we are in the streets for. We’re going to take as much time as we need.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

“We don’t have the same rights as our white counterparts,” 17-year-old Myra Richardson, a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, told AlterNet over the phone. “There are still things holding us back. How can we call America the land of the free?”

Richardson is one of countless young people from Miami to New York to Minneapolis who took to the streets over the weekend to rally under the banner of Black Lives Matter, braving heavily armedpolice deployments and a charged political environment in which they are being demonized by some for exercising their right to protest.

For Richardson the cause is personal, as Alton Sterling was a known member of the community, and the Triple S Food Mart where he was shot to death by police is a popular spot.

“The youth have lived through so many atrocities, but we’re still optimistic, still trying to do work,” said Richardson, who is a member of a community organization called #thewave and said she speaks on behalf of fellow classmates Raheejah Flowers and Jeanette Jackson, both 15. “There have been marches and gatherings all over Baton Rouge. We’ve seen groups from all over the United States come down. We have all these things stacked against us, but there are still people mobilizing and trying.”

Richardson is part of a generation of young people who have grown up seeing images of black and brown youth who look like them shot and killed by police. Police killings of black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow, according to Quartz reporter Annalisa Merelli. During that year, 1,146 people were killed by police, the Guardian reports, in what is likely a conservative estimate due to theunderreporting of law enforcement killings. In 2015, young black men werenine times more likely to be killed by police than the general population, and black people overall were killed at twice the rate of their white, Latino and native American counterparts.

The fact that police killings are calculated by media organizations at all is a victory of the sustained protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite heightened visibility, the killing continues. According to the Guardian, 571 people have been killed by police so far in 2016. The Washington Post putthis number at 512.

These numbers were made painfully real with the back-to-back police killings of African-Americans Sterling and Philando Castile.

Campaigners say that now is an important time to mobilize. “Guided by love, we continue to stand together for justice, human dignity and our shared goal of ending all forms of state violence against black people,” declared the Movement for Black Lives in a widely circulating pledge. “We organize, occupy, demonstrate, march and chant for a new future: A future we can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, who fought for their freedom and ours. Like them, we want a world where our lives matter.”

Yet in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, protesters face an escalated crackdown, despite the fact that there are no proven ties between the gunman and the Black Lives Matter protesters. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement released July 8. “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”

Aesha Rasheed, a New Orleans resident and organizer with Southerners On New Ground, traveled to Baton Rouge over the weekend to join the protests. “In this moment, not only have we lost someone to police violence in such a wrong way, but we also are in position where they have made protesting illegal,” said Rasheed, referring to a controversial Louisiana “Blue Lives Matter” bill that will go into effect August 1.

“I was at the protest on the capitol steps and the youth from Baton Rouge were there telling their stories, making their demands about the change they want to see,” said Rasheed. “People are still dying, still being killed, don’t tell us to sit down and not continue to go out into the streets.”

Under the guise of public safety, police departments across the country have used the Dallas shootings to call for increased police militarization and surveillance nationwide. “This will cause complaints about violating people’s constitutional rights to free assembly, but it is the only way to guarantee safety,” Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, toldReuters.

But according to Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and organizer with Black Lives Matter-ATL, “This is a moment to organize and challenge the conversation about what is public safety and who is defining it. We have to redefine it because it’s not the folks whose neighborhoods are being occupied having a say, instead it’s being defined by more police, more surveillance, more probation, being funneled into the municipal court system. Public safety feels like booby traps to us as black people. We pay a regressive tax with our time and our lives.”

“We want safety, dignity and justice,” Hooks told AlterNet. “For black folks in particular, we have a mandate: to avenge the sufferings of our ancestors, earn the respect of future generations and be transformed in the service of the work. That is what we are in the streets for. We’re going to take as much time as we need.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Protestor Ieshia Evans is approached by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016.   REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

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36 Comments

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  2. private July 12, 2016

    How will BLM protesters react when the groups main message [Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise] has just been largely DEBUNKED? See the latest Harvard study by an African American professor that concluded :

    “Yet, on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect ANY racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls”

    “It is plausible that racial differences in lower level uses of force are simply a distraction and movements such as Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communities rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces.”

    But then again, do FACTS really matter to BLM?

    Reply
    1. charleo1 July 12, 2016

      I can tell you right now, that such denials won’t work. This is not global climate change, or illegal immigration demagoguery. This systemic jailing, and gratuitous killing of a generation of young Black men by incompetent, poorly trained, or racist cops on an industrial scale. And, it’s getting worse. The Black Community is absolutely not going to put up with it, and neither should we as a Country. “Can’t detect ANY racial differences in the raw data?” Tell that to the family of Freddy Grey who’s neck was somehow mysteriously broken in the back of a police patty wagon. And the Grand Jury that still cannot find not a single officer involved culpable enough to prosecute. Not for reckless driving, random braking, swerving side to side, not for a traffic violation, not for Freddie’s life. At least when compared to ruining the careers of some of Baltimore’s finest. Or, just as important, if it might come down to taking on the White power structure in the city, and reforming a skewed criminal justice system that convicts Black, and Brown defendants at a rate twice as high as we can assume the raw data would show are as equally innocent, or guilty as their White counterparts.
      Denials of the facts, about an unfair, and unjust criminal justice system, linked to a for profit corporate incarceration system, is another of the reasons BLM is even necessary in the first place, Why such an obvious fact as African American Lives Matter, has become a question of when are Black lives going to matter enough to be thought of as important enough to qualify for the equal justice that as citizens of this country, they are due. Why that needs to be shouted from the streets, and rooftops in 2016, is a disgrace. But it’s because people like you are looking for reasons, and, “facts,” that allow them to deny the problem exists. But I can tell you right now, these denials, any denials will not work.

      1. private July 12, 2016

        “gratuitous killing” … “racist cops on an industrial scale” Where is the PROOF and DATA to support your claims?

        You mention one incident (Freddy Grey), but can you state for a FACT that Freddy did not get up while the van was moving, perhaps then loosing his balance and falling by sheer accident force-ably into a part of the van steel body thereby causing the injury to his spine. Remember he was shackled and handcuffed so he would not have been able to break a fall with his hands. It was pretty well proven in court that a rough ride did not occur.

        Here are some real numbers. Look at the Guardians “The Counted” data for 2015. If you filter the police shootings by race for unarmed male deaths, the total is 105, of which 44 were white, 38 black, 20 Hispanic, and 3 other. Its pretty clear more “unarmed” whites are being killed by police than “unarmed” blacks. If you bring up the erroneous argument that the numbers of blacks killed are disproportionate based on population size, you fail to acknowledge that police interaction/arrest numbers by race are more appropriate to compare with.

        Certainly there are rare isolated occurrences of non justified police related fatalities. Unfortunately, BLM seems to cherry pick the high visibility incidents involving a white officer often falsely asserting race into the equation, while glossing over or intentionally ignoring the reality of 10 MILLION police arrests that occur annually without a death.

        1. private July 12, 2016

          If you examine only the 38 unarmed black male shootings, 75% (14 people struggled with the officer, 7 reached for the officers weapon, 5 made suspicious moves or were believed to have pointed a weapon and 2 dragged the officer in a car) may involve a possible life threatening action by the suspect. If these 28 result in a legally justified ruling, you end up with 10 incidents that are questionable.

          Of these 10 shootings the police were arrested or charged in some of them (Anthony Hill, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, William Chapman II, Samuel Dubose, and Paterson Brown Jr.) with the 4 other incidents still under investigation.

          To give a sense of perspective, out of an estimated 2-1/2 MILLION arrests of blacks there were around 10 questionable “unarmed” shooting incidents, with the officer charged in six of these incidents.

          I will wait for your explanation on how 10 unarmed incidents out of a black population of 39 MILLION is “industrial scale” killing?

          1. Jim Samaras July 12, 2016

            You will be holding your breath for that reply private till they start calling you blue boy

          2. private July 12, 2016

            I did not even bring up Chicago where 10 shooting fatalities (mostly black on black) are a weekly/weekend occurrence.

          3. Jim Samaras July 12, 2016

            No need private. We all know what hypocrites the left are. These left wing blogs are entertaining though aren’t they? Especially when they get mean and ornery….and they call us uneducated bigots…really? LOL

          4. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

            Yes, you guys “know” a LOT of things that aren’t even remotely close to true.

          5. Sand_Cat July 13, 2016

            Yep. You’ve more than earned the “bigot” title, as well as the “liar” title. As far as hypocrisy goes, your claim is mostly projection: the right in this country would not exist as it does today without lots of dishonesty, hypocrisy, and projection.

          6. Jim Samaras July 13, 2016

            Are you having a hard time finding people to play with Kitty? Did mommy take you off the tit too early? No shame in that, it’s prevalant in some urban communities

          7. Sand_Cat July 14, 2016

            Are you having trouble acting your age, or are you a not too bright ten-year old?

          8. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

            The topic is shootings by LAW ENFORCEMENT, genius. You know, those guys who are supposed to ENFORCE THE LAW rather than flouting it.

          9. private July 13, 2016

            Out of an estimated 2-1/2 MILLION arrests of blacks there were a very small number of black “unarmed” male police shooting incidents in 2015. How is this “gratuitous killing of a generation of young Black men by incompetent, poorly trained, or racist cops on an industrial scale.” as charleo1 states?

            Waiting for your answer
            …crickets

          10. Sand_Cat July 14, 2016

            Since I never used the phrase, I do not plan to defend it.
            Clearly you haven’t read my repliesx, and are in any case impervious to them.

          11. Sand_Cat July 13, 2016

            Better watch it; if he turns blue, a cop might mistake him for a black person and beat him up.

          12. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

            Yes, “he reached for my weapon” is a favorite excuse. You might want to consider the recent case of the man shot 14 times by an officer who was supported by his colleagues in the claim that the man lunged at him, when video – very clear video, taken, I believe by a police dash cam – of the incident showed that the man was at least 15-20 feet from the officer and walking away from him. He was, of course, unarmed.
            And likely many of your “millions of arrests of blacks” were arrests that would not have been made – the arrestee would likely not even have been questioned – had he been white. There was a case of a nine-year-old autistic child – I believe in Georgia or North Carolina – who was “unruly” in class, and resisted being grabbed by a police officer – my recollection is that autistic people tend top resist when even touched – who was charged with “assaulting a police officer” instead of the usual “resisting arrest.”

          13. private July 13, 2016

            Your statement: And likely many of your “millions of arrests of blacks”… . the arrestee would likely not even have been questioned – had he been white.

            Then explain why there were 6 MILLION white arrests in 2014 – FBI Table 43

        2. charleo1 July 12, 2016

          You know there are those, and they are always the same crowd, that that has to be literally run over, before any minority gets their equal Rights in this Country. And it has been so for a very long time. And of course, why should this be any different in that respect? Sure, Freddy just fell and broke his neck, and I’m the Pope. As I said, willful ignorance, and laughable denials are not going to work. The Country is onto you Mayor Rudies, and your Donald Trumpets, with your, “Law and order agendas.”

          1. private July 12, 2016

            So you are saying with 100% certainty that it was impossible for Freddy to fall forward and accidentally strike his head with enough force (weight of his body) to break his neck.

            “A devastating spine injury could happen to anyone. A simple fall or hit on the head can break the spinal bones.”
            by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

          2. charleo1 July 13, 2016

            Since Mr. Grey was hog tied, and laid out on the floor of the van unrestrained, and positioned on his belly. I don’t need a video to conclude he didn’t accidentally fall on his head. Yes. But see how there is always this knee jerk reaction to jump in on the side of the White Establishment power structure represented in this case by the Police? It must have somehow been Freddy’s fault. In the investigation by Grand Juries that refuse to indict. Or when they do bring forth charges, the Courtroom, half heartedly prosecuted by a State Attorney Office that works hand in glove with law enforcement on a daily basis.
            Then as a citizen, when any of that is challenged, you get accused being anti police, or putting a target on the backs of Police. Being un American, or worse. The question BLM is asking is, do you care? Those of your persuasion have been clear in your answer. No, no we don’t care. As I said, that answer is going to prove totally insufficient.
            And if we hold to that, we’re going to create a real mess. Don’t you see that?

          3. private July 13, 2016

            Hog tied? NO, do a simple Google search so you know what the term means. His hands were cuffed and legs shackled, a big difference.

            Dr. Carol Allan testimony: “Gray’s spinal injury could have occurred because the van sped up or slowed down – but because Gray wasn’t belted and, in her opinion, was STANDING UP, he could have suffered his injury even if the van hadn’t been speeding or moving erratically.”

            “Those of your persuasion”?? Oh, you mean people that accept the legal verdict of the courts and juries.

    2. itsfun July 12, 2016

      Never let the facts get i the way of a good protest.

      1. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

        Yes, we can tell you adhere to this philosophy.

    3. Jim Samaras July 12, 2016

      Boy it must have irked him and the NY Times to publish that truth!

      1. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

        But presumably they did. How many stories debunking YOUR point of view get reported in right-wing blogs, the National Review, other conservative newspapers and magazines, or on “fair and balanced” Fox News, and how many of them would you cite?
        Interesting that this differs significantly from other studies – though data is apparently hard to get in this area: one to which I was given a link by a conservative to show we don’t have a policing problem concluded that black men were killed about three times more often. There is abundant evidence that black and Hispanic men are much more likely to be stopped by the police, that they are more likely to be convicted with similar evidence, that they are given longer terms when convicted, and that murdering a white person carries a longer term than murdering a black person.
        I suspect the writer of this article didn’t make up the claim that blacks are nine times more likely to be killed by police. The fact is, the available data appears to come from police forces who choose to report such things; no compilation of such statistics is required.

      2. Sand_Cat July 13, 2016

        As I suspected, the results were far more ambiguous than you suggested (no surprise there).

    4. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

      Have the link?

    5. Sand_Cat July 12, 2016

      Do Harvard professors’ studies matter to you unless they appear to support what you want, or can be twisted to do so?

    6. Sand_Cat July 13, 2016

      Obviously FACTS don’t matter much to you. The facts as stated in the article were that blacks were far more likely to have force used against them or stopped in the first place. It also relied largely on police narratives and those departments “willing to report.” The FACT is that the report conclusion and data are far more ambiguous than you indicated, but no surprise there. Your idiotic statements below indicate your level of bias and disrespect for facts are both very high.

      1. private July 13, 2016

        Ambiguous? Perhaps if you believe Liberal biased newspaper writers who never conducted a study in their life? Are you cherry picking the study results, agreeing with the use of force conclusion but denying the NO BIAS in shooting conclusion.

        The Harvard study was not overly simplistic. It took about 3000 man hours and analysed 1332 separate shootings in 10 cities, not just Houston. The results are the same whether or not you follow the police narrative. Statistically the police narrative didn’t matter. It found that racial bias was not a factor in the police shootings examined. Houston was isolated to measure for just one specific question: Are police more likely to fire in tense situations if the suspect is Black? The answer came back 20% less, not more as some would be inclined to believe.

        “idiotic statements below” – Resorting to Ad hominem attacks. Not able to make an argument?

  3. FT66 July 12, 2016

    Spread the message. No more brutal killing of anyone. Every creature of god must live.

    Reply
    1. private July 12, 2016

      Warning, violent criminals will not follow that message.

  4. yabbed July 12, 2016

    The systemic never ending application of bias that the African American community experiences in daily life is unjust, unfair, and does great harm to our nation. The free expression of racism has bloomed since the election of our first black POTUS. Racists need to be introduced to reality: black Americans achieve and lead and contribute mightily to our country. That President Obama is the most important American in the world is without a doubt and should be respected. There should be no institutionalized prejudice as we see in the policing of our communities and in the Republicans holding elective office.

    Reply
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