As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, some law enforcement officials have responded in kind with attacks of their own. Last week the second of two investigations of the conduct of two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark was completed. Both investigations, in a terrible miscarriage of justice, found no evidence of civil rights violations. Meanwhile, at a press conference held only moments after the latest investigative findings, Police Lt. Bob Kroll, who is president of the Minneapolis police union, referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the number of police killed in the line of duty declined 14 percent a year after the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement and that movement is committed to nonviolence and bears no responsibility for the death of even one police officer.
Public outrage is not terrorism. Community organizing is not terrorism. Self-defense is not terrorism. Occupying public law enforcement buildings — as was done in Minneapolis when law enforcement demonstrated resistance in investigating Clark’s murder — is not terrorism.
Terrorism is the police unfairly targeting, intimidating and destroying Black communities. Almost every month we are confronted with yet another eyewitness video capturing the murder of a Black person at the hands of police officers. In case after case, we see these murderers released scot-free. Despite the overwhelming and indisputable evidence, in almost every instance not a single law enforcement official has stepped forth to claim any responsibility for the tragedy.
Clark’s conflating of Black Lives Matter with terrorism illustrates what happens when the rules of the game are written and dictated by a system of White supremacy. Any mass resistance led by Black people is deemed terrorism by some because it boldly and unapologetically disrupts the racism inherent in our laws, institutions and culture while demanding a shift in the balance of power.
Last week Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richard was convicted of “felony lynching,” a charge levied after the prosecutor claimed she attempted to stop an arrest and start a riot. While eyewitness accounts counter police claims of the incident, it bears mentioning that not a person was injured or harmed in any way. This “lynching law,” originally enacted to protect Black people from lynch mobs, is perversely being used to suppress Black people who are protesting to save Black lives.
The Black Lives Matter movement is devoted to true and lasting liberation of Black people from the oppression of racism that destroys the fabric of our communities and has us constantly living under siege. As the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Trust Black Women partnership of the Reproductive Justice Movement work in solidarity for the liberation of Black people, we believe that Black people deserve to parent our children without fear of injury or death at the hands of the very civil servants charged with ensuring public safety.
Kroll’s statement does nothing to ensure public safety. Instead he vilifies a powerful movement struggling for that same safety and security afforded by White privilege. His attack deflects accountability and reinforces the institutional racism, racial bias and racist policing practices that plague the Minneapolis police department as well as those across the country.
Frederick Douglass was right when he said, “Power concedes nothing without demand.” Black Lives Matter is that demand. Black Lives Matter is a powerful voice for justice whose members put their lives on the line against the terrorism of racism every day. We must harness these most recent injustices to embolden our communities to never stop fighting until the real terrorism in America is fully eradicated.
La'Tasha D. Mayes is Executive Director, New Voices for Reproductive Justice