'Black Lives Matter': a movement that
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[July 09, 2016]
By Peter Eisler and Alana Wise
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - “Black Lives Matter”
has become a mantra for people protesting police violence against
It’s a hash tag, a popular t-shirt slogan and a movement that is loosely
organized – by design.
Black Lives Matter was founded by three women who popularized the slogan
during protests over the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, an
African-American teen who was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood
watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida.
It has a website (BlackLivesMatter.com) and a network of chapters. But
the idea is bigger than the organization.
Although the march where five Dallas police officers were fatally shot
Thursday was organized by another group, news reports described it as a
Black Lives Matters event.
“The convenient narrative has been for people, for the media to say,
‘Well, this was organized by Black Lives Matter',” said Tezlyn Figaro, a
publicist for Next Generation Action Network, the group that organized
the event. The rally "had no affiliation with Black Lives Matter."
The confusion flows in part from the decentralized structure of the
Black Lives Matter organization and its founders’ desire that it remain
open and inclusive.
“Not everyone who shows up at a demonstration is a full-fledged member
of BLM, (but) they’re welcomed and encouraged to participate,” Melina
Abdullah, a representative of the group’s Los Angeles chapter, said in a
conversation with Reuters in June.
During the standoff with police negotiators Thursday, the shooter
invoked the slogan, saying he was "upset about black lives matter,"
according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown.
The organization disavowed the violence in a post on its web page.
“This is a tragedy - both for those who have been impacted by
yesterday's attack and for our democracy,” it said.
“There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for
change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights
of Black Americans. We should reject all of this. Black activists have
raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.”
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A demonstrator with Black Lives Matter holds up a sign during a
protest in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 8,
2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
That didn’t stop a wave of social media criticism attempting to tie
the violence to the movement. But U.S. Attorney General Loretta
Lynch, speaking about the demonstrations inspired by Black Lives and
other groups, drew a bright line between the gunman’s actions and
“lawful protest and protected speech.”
“Do not be discouraged by those who use your lawful actions as cover
for their heinous violence," Lynch said Friday. "We will continue to
safeguard your constitutional rights and to work with you in the
difficult mission of building a better nation and a brighter
Some said the best way to define the movement is by continuing to
push a positive message. After a vigil Friday in Dallas for the
slain officers, Richmond Bunch played “Amazing Grace” on his violin.
“We need to frame out a way to come back to peace,” said Bunch, 35,
an African-American Dallas resident and Black Lives Matter
contributor. “The guy who committed this act, he doesn't stand for
what America is.”
(Additional reporting by Ruthy Munoz in Washington, and Ernest
Scheyder and Marice Richter in Dallas. Editing by Jason Szep and
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