Oscar Grant, 22, Oakland, CA, January 2009
Trayvon Martin, 17, Sanford FL, February 2012
Eric Garner, 43, Staten Island, NY, July 2014
Mike Brown, 18, Ferguson, MO, August 2014
John Crawford, 22, Beavercreek, OH, August 2014
Freddie Gray, 25, Baltimore, MD, April 2015
These are just a few names of black men who were violently killed, mostly by police officers. They were killed as though their lives did not matter. One of the stories is that in 2012 a 17 year-old black male, Trayvon Martin, was walking back home from a convenience store where he bought Skittles candy and a can of iced tea for his brother.
There are conflicting stories about whether he bought the Skittles and iced tea or if he stole them. Anyway, on his journey home, he was a victim of racial profiling. He was walking through a neighborhood that was recently robbed a few times and a community watch member, George Zimmerman, saw Trayvon and called the police because he thought he looked suspicious. He told the police that he was following Trayvon and the police told him that he did not need to do that. In the interim of the police arriving, Zimmerman claimed that Trayvon attacked him by hitting him in the face and knocking him down on the pavement, so, he took out his gun and shot Trayvon in the chest, killing him.
Zimmerman was not arrested because the police said there wasn’t enough evidence to dispute his self-defense claim. There was an investigation and he was then arrested on second degree murder charges, but he posted bail. The case went to trial and Zimmerman was acquitted because it was deemed that he acted in self-defense, although there was no DNA found under Trayvon’s fingernails, which would have indicated a struggle.
Due to the immense frustration of our young black men getting killed with no repercussions, #BlackLivesMatter was formed by 3 female community organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, which is “an international activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence toward black people. Black Lives Matter regularly organizes protests around the deaths of black people in killings by law enforcement officers, and broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system”.
Since Trayvon Martin’s murder, there have been many other very high profile killings of young black men, but by police officers and there were no consequences. How can someone get killed and nothing is done about it? This has happened over and over again. They were so frequent that there were tag lines to reference them: “Hands up, don’t shoot”, which refers to Mike Brown surrendering right before he was shot and killed by the police and “I can’t breathe”, which refers to Eric Garner’s last words before he died from being in a chokehold during physical restraint by the police.
The common theme is that none of these black men were armed, they were killed and no one was held accountable.
There was such an outrage in the black community that something had to be done and the fastest way to reach people to make everyone aware of what was happening was to use social media. It worked! From this, there were several protests and demonstrations against police brutality and protests for justice. There are now 28 chapters of Black Lives Matter throughout the country and a chapter in Canada.
I do believe that being a police officer is a very dangerous job and it takes a courageous person to be one, however, it does not give him the right to brutalize people, regardless of race. It just seems like most of the killings by police officers are of young black men only because they can.
The most recent murder was the death of Freddie Gray that happened April 2015 in Baltimore, MD and there were charges against the officers who killed him. Justice has finally been served and I think that the Black Lives Matter movement was a wakeup call to all communities that police brutality, particularly against young black men will not be tolerated.
Check out what is going on with #BlackLivesMatter, http://blacklivesmatter.com/.