By: Gregg Zeff
On: July 31, 2020
What Prompted Black Lives Matter Protests in 2020?
The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 started in response to the death of George Floyd, who was a black American living in Minneapolis. Floyd, who had reportedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store, was detained by Minneapolis police. During his detainment, a white police officer,Derek Chauvin, kneeled continuously on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Although Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe, Chauvin and the other officers on the scene took no action to help Floyd. Floyd ultimately died from asphyxia. Protests quickly spread outwards from Minneapolis as anger towards police brutality reached a tipping point.
What are the Statistics for Police Brutality Against African Americans?
The discrepancy in police brutality figures is quite staggering. According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, in 2019 black Americans were three times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. Notably, black Americans are 1.5 times more likely to be unarmed at the time of their death by police than white Americans are. Although only 13% of the US population is black (as of 2019), up to 24% of all police killings in the United States involve black victims.
What does Black Lives Matter Demand?
Like the civil rights movement a generation ago, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement advocates against incidents of police brutality against black Americans, race discrimination, and health disparities. The Black Lives Matter protests are based on a platform of demands, which include:
- Divestment (“defunding”) from institutions that have historically criminalized and harmed black people while investing in services and programs that help heal, educate, and ensure the safety of those people.
- Economic justice for all and restructuring the economic system to increase collective ownership via the community.
- Community control and influence on the laws, institutions, and regulations that impact them most.
- Independent black political power and self-determination in all areas of society.
- Reparations for past and continuing harms.
What have Black Lives Matter Protesters Accomplished in Terms of Big-City Police Policies?
There have been a number of changes in police policy across many cities prompted by Black Lives Matter protests. For example, due to public response towards police brutality at protests, Portland, Oregon police officers are no longer supposed to use tear gas except in the most dire situations. In California, prosecutors are levying to decrease the Los Angeles police budget by $100-150 million annually, as well as make it illegal for police unions to lobby in local government. In Kentucky, the governor suspended the use of no-knock warrants. And in Minneapolis, lawmakers voted to legally require police officers to intervene should they see another officer involved in an unauthorized use of force. Furthermore, the mayor of Minneapolis and police unions have begun to formulate transitional plans to replace the current police system with a new one.
Do Black Lives Matter Protesters Support Defunding the Police?
The term “defunding the police” has never advocated for the abolishment or complete defunding of the police across the US. Instead, the Black Lives Matter movement advocates for reducing funding, or divesting police budgets to other sources. Defunding the police refers to the process of taking portions of the police budgets and spreading them out to other community institutions, like treatment centers, social workers, schools, and clinics. The idea is that these institutions could handle certain crises better than the police, who are not properly trained to address situations like mental health crises, drug problems, and domestic issues.
The calls to “defund” the police among many BLM supporters, are essentially asking that the excessive budgets given to police departments should instead be diverted to services and institutions that are more beneficial to the overall health and cohesion of their communities. Many police departments have excessively large budgets when compared to funding received by schools, clinics, and other community institutions.
Why have Protesters Removed certain Statues?
Many of the statues removed in recent weeks and months have had ties to slavery or imperialist colonization (such as Christopher Columbus), either directly or due to cultural association. Often these are memorials to confederate soldiers and slave owners, which are relics of a time before civil rights applied to all. Because these statues essentially stand as memorials to these people and their actions, many protestors view the statues as hurdles to truly equal rights for all.
Why have Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s Vowed to make changes to their Branding?
Both brands have acknowledged that the image of their company and their labeling were based on dated racial stereotypes, neither of which have any place in society any longer. Therefore, the companies have agreed to follow the example of the BLM protestors calling for change and vowed to redesign the packaging on both brands to steer away from unnecessary racist images.