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Black Lives Matter vow to keep on campaigning

MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: A protestor at a Black Lives Matter march in the UK [PIC CREDIT: Tony@blackinkphotos]

BLACK LIVES Matter campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to highlight police use of force against black citizens following the shootings of five police officers in Dallas last week by lone sniper Micah Johnson.

According to some supporters of the movement, the shootings in Dallas at what had been a peaceful protest, have made it harder for Black Lives Matter campaigners to get their message across about the need to hold the police accountable for the shooting of unarmed black men and women.

Worldwide revulsion over videos of officers killing Alton Sterling in Louisana and Philando Castile in Minnesota was hailed as proof that the group’s message about the need for police accountability when excessive force was used against black citizens was getting through.

However since the Dallas shootings right wing commentators in the US have openly blamed the movement for the deaths of the officers.

Fears have also been raised about the increased surveillance and monitoring of protestors following the shootings.

ARRESTED

This week, reports emerged that Chris LeDay, an Atlanta resident who was the first person to post the video of Alton Sterling online on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts helping the story get national attention, was arrested on his way to work.

But Dominique Alexander of the Next Generation Action Network, which organised the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, said that while there was a need to mourn the deaths of the police officers, the larger issue of racial disparities in law enforcement should not be obscured.


MAKING THEIR POINT: Thousands of demonstrators marched through central London last week and brought the area to a standstill [PIC CREDIT: Tony@BlackInkPhoto]

Rejecting any ties between the gunman and their activism Alexander said last week: “This is not going to stop our movement” he said. “In fact, we want it to strengthen it. No one deserves to get shot unjustly — not police officers, not black men. A shooting in Dallas doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist anymore.”

Another activist, Johnetta Elzie, who rose to prominence during protests following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 said of Micah Johnson: “He wasn’t a protester. People are conflating the message with being anti-police and its anti-police violence.”

Fellow Black Lives Matter campaigner Ja’Mal Green said the killings were, in their own grisly way, a powerful wake-up call.

“It’s not a setback at all,” Green said. “That’s showing the people of this country that black people are getting to a boiling point. We are tired of watching police kill our brothers and sisters. We are tired of being tired.”


UNITED: A group of girls sit holding their placards [PIC CREDIT: Tony@BlackInkPhoto]

He insisted that he was not encouraging violence but he said there “comes a time when black people will snap”.
He added: “It only takes a couple to get past that boiling point. You saw that in Dallas.”

Activists associated with Black Lives Matter refused to slow down their campaign staging large protests in cities around the United States, including Atlanta, Phoenix and San Francisco.

STANDSTILL

Here in the UK, Oxford Street in central London came to a standstill last week as Black Lives Matter protestors gathered to demand justice for the killing of two black men by US police.

Demonstrators holding banners saying “No justice no peace” gathered in solidarity with protesters in the US and marched down the busy shopping street towards Hyde Park.

The crowd stopped outside the American Embassy in Mayfair and chanted “hands up don’t shoot,” in reference to the killing of Castile and Sterling.

There were also protests in Brixton, south London, and outside the Houses of Parliament.

Among the protestors was Zita Holborne, Co-founder of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts BARAC UK.

She said: “The deaths of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile, near St. Paul, Minnesota, being played out on our screens in real time was traumatising for us as black people to watch. That there has been such a huge reaction on both sides of the pond with people taking to the streets can be viewed as a positive thing because the worst thing would be for people to become desensitised and normalise such events. Police both in the USA and the UK have been killing with impunity for far too long. Institutionalised racism in police forces and other systems and structures such as the judiciary is deepening.”

She added: “Alongside this state violence and threat to black lives is deepening poverty fuelled by economic downturn, austerity and lack of investment in the poorest and most deprived areas combines with discrimination in the labour market. There is only so much people can take without breaking. Negative media reporting whilst appealing to the Donald Trump followers of the USA, will not stop the expression of outrage happening. What doesn’t break us only makes us stronger.”


IS HIS FUTURE SAFE? A young mum joins the protestors [PIC CREDIT: Tony@BlackInkPhoto]

Holboorne continued: “Whilst we must continue to defend our right to protest we also need to combine this with other campaigning actions if we are to eliminate institutional racism, see an end to state murder and free ourselves of physical and virtual chains. Governments and institutions must be held accountable for their actions or lack of action and must be accountable to the communities and societies they serve.”

UNEQUAL

Remi Joseph Salisbury from the University of Leeds’ Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies said: “In a society where black lives are apparently so expendable, where one in three black males are incarcerated over their lifetime, and where the education system remains separate and unequal, it is fundamentally important that a national and international movement exists that affirms and fights for the importance of black lives. It is inconceivable to assume that progress would be made without black movements demanding change.”

He continued: “Following the murder of the police officers, former US congressmen Joe Walsh used Twitter to place the blame at the feet of Obama, liberals, and Black Lives Matter. Walsh’s critique is woefully misplaced. It is not Obama, or Black Lives Matter that brought about these murders. Rather the deep-rooted anti-black racism that characterises US society spurned these police murders. Rather than condemning the movement for the actions of an unassociated individual, people like Walsh should consider encouraging Black Lives Matter, a peaceful and progressive movement that, ultimately, provides a space that channels anger.”

PROTEST

Black Lives Matter was born as a cry of protest on July 13, 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth walking home in Florida. That night, activist Alicia Garza wrote: “We don’t deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors attached a hashtag to the words, and with a third woman they later founded a #BlackLivesMatter organization, although they don’t try to control who uses the phrase.

What started as a social-media phenomenon has gone on to gain international attention.


HANDS UP: A protestor walks through the streets with a popular slogan emblazoned across his chest [PIC CREDIT: Tony@BlackInkPhoto]

Videos of police shootings now routinely circulate under the #BlackLivesMatter tag and go viral.

None has evoked more emotion than last week’s live-streaming of the aftermath of a police officer shooting Philando Castile in Minnesota. Following his death, the outcry, which included a statement by President Obama, made clear that activists were succeeding in their mission of convincing the world that black people were being targeted by police because of their race.

Among those who helped to organise the UK demonstrations last week which attracted thousands was Capres Willow Turner, an 18-year-old student at Epping Forest College in Loughton and travel blogger. She set up a Facebook page for the event.

She told The Voice: “I set up the group after watching the videos of the shooting to death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which just horrified me. This has been going on for a long time but those videos just horrified me. I thought that something needs to be done right now. The police are going to keep on murdering people, keep on being brutal. Racism is going to keep on going on until we literally stand up and do something. So yeah I started the Facebook group and the next thing it’s just blown up.”

She continued: “The police in the UK and US should be made to feel they are accountable. Social media has helped a lot, forcing them to confront their actions. I would like to see some of them step forward and say that what’s been going on is wrong but as far as I know not a single police officer has broken ranks to come forward to say that. The media and police are ignoring what’s right and what’s wrong. Young people are on the rise. This movement is not going away. It’s important to show we are united, unified and strong. This can’t be a one hit wonder thing or they will think we are not serious. Protesting online is great but we need to take real action. I’m encouraging everyone to get down to the Stand Up to Racism demonstration this Saturday (July 16) and join the Black Lives Matter bloc. There’s a racist backlash going after the referendum and we need to unify the issues.”

Additional reporting by Gary McFarlane.

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