#BlackLivesMatter Sparks Movement

2013

United States

Activism & Resistance Media & Culture Race & Ethnicity

Through a large surge in activism across the United States, #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) energized a national movement against the systemic oppression of Black people at a scale not seen in decades.

The founders of BLM, Black community organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, started the campaign in 2013 as a social media hashtag following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of 14 year-old unarmed African-American Trayvon Martin. The organization gained international attention during protests following the 2014 fatal shooting of African-American Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, MI.

BLM’s mission is to end police violence and broader racial discrimination against Black people within the criminal justice system. BLM has organized mass protests both after individual incidents of police violence and regularly to highlight systemic racism. The organization has evolved to tackle the injustices faced by women of color and other intersectional identities within the African-American community. While its primary concern is the Black community, BLM has emphasized the socio-political empowerment and right to full citizenship across all marginalized groups and has extended its support to other social justice initiatives.

BLM has faced criticism regarding its focus and tactics. Some Civil Rights leaders questioned the use of mass protest and seemingly confrontational approaches. President Trump and other Republicans accused the movement of being anti-police and exacerbating racial tensions. The hashtag #BlueLivesMatter, referring to police officers, has been used to counter BLM and its perceived vilification of law enforcement. Public opinion and support of the movement varies depending on demographic and political association.

Regardless of the criticism levied against it, BLM has grown in influence. Presidential debates during the 2016 election forced candidates to publicly declare their positions on BLM topics and the Democratic National Committee officially endorsed the movement, inviting mothers of African-American police-shooting victims to speak at the DNC convention. Despite its decentralized structure, BLM has expanded to a collection of national chapters and has inspired protests against police brutality towards Black people in societies throughout the world.