In Minneapolis, tanks, rows of national guardsmen and blinding tear gas canisters meet Black Lives Matter protesters. In Michigan, protesters who wanted their states to open received tweets of presidential support.
Black Lives Matter, or BLM, protests in all 50 states and various countries around the world highlight the mistreatment of the black community by law enforcement. While BLM protesters in Minneapolis, New York City and Los Angeles to name a few, were harmed with rubber bullets, tear gas, police cars running into crowds and various other harmful tactics, armed protesters in Michigan were unbothered and received federal support.
After the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, protesters took the streets to speak on the mistreatment of black civilians by the police. During the protests, the differences in treatment between protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and those protesting government stay-at-home orders became undeniable. While protesters in Michigan went to the state’s capital fully armed and received federal support, black protesters were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and violence.
Steps like deploying the National Guard and implementing curfews demonstrate that police officers and the systems in place to protect them are willing to take any measures needed to suppress and silence the voices of protesters. The nightly employment of tear gas and rubber bullets function as overt displays of unnecessary violence. There is no questioning the intent of cops using these methods: crowd control is not pushing and shooting kneeling protesters to the ground.
Where protesters in Minneapolis were maced and shot with 44 mm rubber bullets, protesters armed with large guns surrounded Michigan’s Capitol building, with no injuries or police interference reported. There is a clear difference in the demographic of these protests.
When black folks protest, they’re run over and shot, further proving their message of police violence. When white people protest, their president tweets his support and pushes for their demands to be met.
Yet another display of the unfair treatment of black protesters is the widely-held belief that protesters have become focused on looting instead of protesting the actions of guilty officers. Instead of broadcasting the message of protesters and bringing awareness to their cause, many are trying to discredit the movement by showing only those looting or fighting in self-defense.
These carefully curated moments have destructive effects on the BLM movement and black communities. Villainizing black protesters fighting for their lives while supporting armed white people refusing to wear masks and pleading for haircuts displays a massive discrepancy in the social treatment of black people pointing out their centuries-long oppression.
Though the fatal use of excessive force is nothing new to the black community living in America, a country founded on slavery and systemic oppression and genocide, the case of George Floyd was especially disturbing. Caught on camera, Floyd’s murderer, Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck for about nine minutes while other cops stand guard. This video and incident surfacing during a pandemic was even more telling of the lengths members of law enforcement will go to carry out their racist agenda, using their badges to protect them from legal prosecution.
Although the officers involved were arrested, there is no guarantee that justice will be served. The fact that there is video evidence of the murder and it was still investigated further demonstrates the sluggish and protective behaviors the American judicial system will take on to perpetuate the oppression of black people.
It is through the federally-backed acceptance of white people’s pernicious behavior and denial of this same acceptance to black protesters bringing awareness to a grave social issue that justice may never be achieved.
Only through massive defunding and the gradual abolition of the police can justice be reached and their needless, vicious killings end. Only then can black people live without fear of their name becoming the next Twitter hashtag.
Until the phrase “black lives matter” is not a controversial one, this country and all others will remain in the racist periods they claim they’ve progressed from.