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Black Lives Matter: The next civil rights movement

As the cliché often goes, a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words. In this case, it is worth more than that. A young African-American woman stands in front of armoured policemen. She refuses to get off the highway in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, because she is protesting the very thing the policemen represent. She is unarmed, but the cops seem to be in a hurry to grab her, off-balance, while she stands upright, rooted in what she believes.

She was part of the Black Lives Matter protest, which has been trending on social media this weekend with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. It was a peaceful protest, part of many such demonstrations around the U.S. this weekend, against the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Sterling was shot outside a convenience store, because he was carrying a gun, in a state where it is legal to do so. Police officers tackled him to the ground and shot him several times as he was proclaiming his innocence.

Philando Castile was fatally shot because he had a concealed weapon that he owned the license for. This led the Minnesota state Governor to declare that Castile wouldn’t be dead if he were white.

Five police officers were subsequently killed and 7 injured in a protest over the shootings of Sterling and Castile.

Many more protests erupted as a response to this. Carrying on for the fourth day now, BLM protests have been held in Minnesota, Louisiana, New York, Washington and many other states across the U.S. And the movement isn’t restricted to the U.S. Protests happened in the U.K. too, where as crowd brought traffic to a halt in London.

Around 100 protesters were arrested in Baton Rouge, and more than 200 people were arrested in Louisiana.

The Black Lives Matter movement itself is established in collective consciousness as one that’s sprung up from the ground. It isn’t organised, but a visceral response to the growing awareness of police brutality against African Americans in a country where the race has received equal rights only recently.

It all began in the form of a hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which lead to riots in the town, saw the first in-person protest by the BLM movement.

News about police brutality, though hasn’t lessened in the last few years.

Eric Garner died after he was put in a chokehold. Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was killed because he had a toy gun. Freddie Gray was arrested because he had a switchblade. Bystanders saw him being dragged to a police van, screaming in pain and being held with so much force that he fell into a coma and died on the way to a hospital.

2015 saw protests against the killing of Freddie Gray, a part of the brutal Baltimore riots. The shooting in a church in South Carolina by a white supremacist only made protests more intense. Several times, protesters have been arrested while remaining peaceful.

Media reports suggest that the woman in the picture is one of the people arrested in Baton Rouge.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 8:10:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/Black-Lives-Matter-The-next-civil-rights-movement/article14483329.ece

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