Black Lives Matter: Beyond the Riots
By: Malcolm A. Kline | Accuracy in Media
When the African-American police chief of Dallas, David Brown, revealed on July 8, 2016 that the sniper who killed five officers and injured another seven the night before was “upset about Black Lives Matter,” some observers began to realize that BLM did more than just arrange vigils where people could hold candles and sing, after police shot suspects of color in deadly confrontations, no matter what the ethnic background of the law enforcement officer was.
That same month, African-American Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer’s study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force, challenged the very foundations of BLM, concluding that “police were no more likely to shoot non-whites than whites after factoring in extenuating circumstances.” Prof. Fryer noted that “On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” adding that these findings “were the most surprising result of my career.”
The results of this study not only challenged the widely promoted civil rights groups’ belief that racist cops are singling out blacks, “it is plausible that racial differences in lower level uses of force are simply a distraction, and movements such as Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communities rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces,” said Prof. Fryer in the study’s conclusion.
To understand more about the modus operandi of Black Lives Matter, one need only examine their website. “#BlackLivesMatter advocates dignity, justice and freedom,” BLM tweeted after the Dallas attacks, “Not murder.”
Nevertheless, on its website, the group proclaimed: “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible.” Ironically, Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered an even less measured statement to BLM activists, who organized the protest that preceded the shootings, saying: “Do not be discouraged by those who would use your lawful actions as a cover for their heinous violence.”
After the tragedy occurred, President Obama reacted by saying: “We will learn more about their twisted motivations. Let’s be clear: There is no possible justification.”
However, these denunciations of violence came after the fact. It is harder to find admonitions by BLM or, for that matter, nationally elected and appointed officials, to avoid violence that were issued before the protests.
William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, noted on the day after the attack, “I think [the Obama Administration] continued appeasements at the federal level with the Department of Justice, their appeasement of violent criminals, their refusal to condemn movements like Black Lives Matter, actively calling for the death of police officers, that type of thing, all the while blaming police for the problems in this country has led directly to the climate that has made Dallas possible.”
It is worth noting that the Dallas police chief did not say the sniper was instructed by Black Lives Matter, but “upset about” it. Let’s take a look at BLM to see how that might have happened.
Formed in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of would-be neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012, BLM was increasingly visible in protests after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore in 2015.
More recently, both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, have sought support from the group in their respective campaigns for the Democratic nominations. Indeed, devout Democrats show more obedience to BLM than most Catholics do to the pope.
Earlier in the presidential campaign season, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley backpedaled after declaring in a Democratic forum that “all lives matter.” More recently, actor Justin Timberlake actually apologized to BLM for saying, “we’re all the same.”
“For the record, since August 2014, more than 1,030 protest actions have been held in the name of Black Lives Matter,” BLM proclaims on its website. “The first national convening in July drew over 1,000 participants.” BLM has chapters in 56 cities across the country. Just about all of them, plus their national spokesmen, have their own twitter pages.
In a previous Accuracy in Media special report published earlier this year, investigative reporter James Simpson showed that left-wing foundations were bankrolling the group. “The Black Lives Matter movement is fueled in large part by left-wing donors such as billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation donated $33 million to groups that engaged in Ferguson-related protests,” conservative author and activistStar Parker asserted in a column which appeared on August 18, 2015.
Parker is not the only black conservative to blast the group. “If Black Lives Matter was a white radical group, doing exactly what these black people are doing, they would be shut down. America would not allow that to happen,” the Reverend Jesse Peterson, president and founder of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), said on Breitbart News Daily.
Oddly enough, given BLM’s concern over “extrajudicial killings,” the group devotes more space on its pages to Martin, Brown and Gray who had extensive police records and histories of violence than to New Yorker Eric Garner, whose crime was selling loose cigarettes. Garner died when he was waylaid by a cop who had him in a chokehold.
In the Martin, Brown and Gray cases, courts exhaustively reviewed the available evidence and released voluminous reports and transcripts when they gave police, basically, not-guilty verdicts. In the Garner case, a grand jury cleared the police, but the city did offer Garner’s widow $5 million when she brought a wrongful death suit.
Black Lives Matter describes itself as a chapter-based national organization “working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
Hard data are difficult to obtain from BLM materials, but when you go outside the group to get it, you find that the facts don’t back up BLM’s mission statement. “For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths,” Heather Mac Donald from the Manhattan Institute wrote in February. She was relying primarily on Justice Department statistics from the Obama Administration.
“The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate,” she pointed out. “There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 — the most recent year for which such data are available — compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. . . Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.”
One objective that BLM groups have in common is widespread destruction. The BLM rally in Dallas may indeed have been a peaceful protest before the sniper took action, “upset by Black Lives Matter,” but previous rallies in which BLM was involved were hardly violence-free.
In New York after Eric Garner’s death, where the group was relatively dormant, for example, “Demonstrators disrupted New York City streets again Thursday night over the decision not to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner,” CBS News reported on December 5, 2014. “While the protests were large and more than 200 arrests were made by NYPD officers, they were mostly peaceful — nothing like the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri . . . surrounding the death of Michael Brown.”
On the other hand, Ben Unglesbee reported in the St. Louis Business Journal on December 14, 2014 that “The value of buildings in the Ferguson area that were destroyed in last week’s riots amounts to nearly $4.6 million.”
“In Ferguson, 17 businesses saw their buildings damaged so badly they are currently deemed ‘unsafe structures,’ according to a list provided by the city manager’s office.”
“Together, the Ferguson buildings have an appraised value of about $3 million, based on St. Louis County assessor records. The businesses destroyed include Little Caesar’s Pizza and Hidden Treasures on North Florissant Road, and McDonald’s, Public Storage and several others on West Florissant Avenue.”
Dellena Jones, the owner of one of these businesses, the 911 Hair Salon on West Florissant Avenue, said last year, “I’m an African-American, I’m a single parent. I have two kids. I’m affected by this. It’s almost a little bit contradictory with the chants of ‘Black lives matter,’ but it seems that it’s only some black lives matter.” But then, BLM takes a dim view of what it calls “black capitalism” as well. “I don’t think that by making more black elites that we are going to shift that, so black capitalism is not the answer to that,” BLM co-founder Alicia Garza said at the University of Maryland last October, according to Campus Reform. “We need a different economic system that does not prioritize profits over people.”
“The Maryland Insurance Administration says that insurance companies have paid $12.9 million in claims stemming from civil unrest in Baltimore linked to the death in April of Freddie Gray,” the Associated Press reported last year. “The agency said Tuesday that the payments include $11.6 million for commercial property damage. “
“Rioters damaged or looted hundreds of businesses, and set several on fire, after Gray’s funeral April 27.” BLM, at a minimum, has been less than forthright in its condemnation of all of the above. In his January special report, James Simpson showed that BLM’s intellectual origins lay in the “critical race theory” that has dominated academia for decades. BLM’s current philosophy may be even more ominous.
“When I taught a course at Yale,” BLM organizer DeRay Mckesson said in an interview with the libertarian Reason Magazine this year, “all people heard about it was a reading I assigned called ‘In Defense of Looting,’ which people haven’t even read and I think is a really interesting piece.”
It is an interesting piece. In the essay, which appeared in The New Inquiry, Willie Osterweil writes, “The mystifying ideological claim that looting is violent and non-political is one that has been carefully produced by the ruling class because it is precisely the violent maintenance of property which is both the basis and end of their power.”
“Looting is extremely dangerous to the rich (and most white people) because it reveals, with an immediacy that has to be moralized away, that the idea of private property is just that: an idea, a tenuous and contingent structure of consent, backed up by the lethal force of the state. When rioters take territory and loot, they are revealing precisely how, in a space without cops, property relations can be destroyed and things can be had for free.” Property owners, or, for that matter, residents of properties, might understandably be fearful of such an outlook.
“Willie Osterweil is a writer and punk singer based in Brooklyn, NY,” the Common Dreams progressive web site informs us, and adds the evidently tongue-in-cheek coda: “When he’s not overseas taking part in revolutions, Willie edits the A/V section for The New Inquiry and fronts the band Vulture S***.” Al Jazeera also posts his articles.
It’s easy to see where his viewpoint is compatible with that of BLM. Revolutionary rhetoric and attacks upon the free market are standard for BLM. In the wake of the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub by a registered Democrat on record for sympathizing with ISIS, BLM issued a statement alternately blaming “the Christian Right” and “capitalism” for the onslaught in which the gunman killed 49 and wounded another 53 people.
“It is with pain and heartache that the Black Lives Matter Network extends love, light, protection, and abundance to our family in Orlando, Florida. We love you. Black people are a diverse community, and though the hate-filled rhetoric of the conservative right is currently trying to pit us against our kin — we will always stand with all the parts of ourselves. Today, Queer, Latinx, and Muslim family, we lift you up.”
“Despite the media’s framing of this as a terrorist attack, we are very clear that this terror is completely homegrown, born from the anti-Black white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia of the conservative right and of those who would use religious extremism as a weapon to gain power for the few and take power from the rest. Those who seek to profit from our deaths hope we will forget who our real enemy is, and blame Muslim communities instead.”
“But we will never forget.”
“Homegrown terror is the product of a long history of colonialism, including state and vigilante violence. It is the product of white supremacy and capitalism, which deforms the spirit and fuels interpersonal violence.”
Actually, the BLM site devotes about as much space to LGBT issues as it does to urban unrest. Given BLM’s casual attitude towards metropolitan violence, perhaps it is a good thing that it is branching out in more peaceful directions. Nevertheless, what looks like “mission creep” is actually, in view of BLM’s political orientation, consistent with the Left’s historical antipathy towards property, religion and marriage, at least, that of people other than the Leftists themselves.
Under “Who we are,” for example, we learn that the BLM movement “goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.”
“Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
Similarly, under the “herstory” tag, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza advises, “When you design an event / campaign / et cetera based on the work of queer Black women, don’t invite them to participate in shaping it, but ask them to provide materials and ideas for next steps for said event, that is racism in practice. It’s also hetero-patriarchal. Straight men, unintentionally or intentionally, have taken the work of queer Black women and erased our contributions. Perhaps if we were the charismatic Black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being Black queer women in this society (and apparently within these movements) tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy.”
That the group would issue such an advisory is not too surprising: there is an overlap with BLM spokespersons and LGBT activists. For instance, as Simpson noted, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors self-identifies as a “working class, queer, black woman.”
(Sidenote: Apparently the solidarity with the LGBT movement ends when they encounter gay conservatives. “Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance at DePaul University was cut short Tuesday after several Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the stage, stealing the microphone from a moderator and blowing a safety whistle in the conservative firebrand’s face until he was forced to leave the event,” Anthony Gockowski reported earlier this year on the Campus Reform website maintained by the Leadership Institute.)
Oddly, The College Fix has reported that following the Orlando attacks, BLM activists threw a gay white couple out of a vigil at the University of Missouri because they were Caucasian.
“Activists supporting the Black Lives Matter social justice movement burned an American flag as a protest against police brutality in Minneapolis Wednesday night after prosecutors announced no charges would be brought against two police officers in the shooting death of Jamar Clark last November,” Christina Silva reported in the International Business Times on March 15, 2016. “Demonstrators marched to downtown Minneapolis from the northern area of the city where Clark, a 24-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot.”
The telegenic Mckesson is the highly visible “go to” spokesman for BLM, but the records of other BLM organizers are more diverse. For example, the head of BLM in Dallas, the Reverend Jeff Hood, is the author of several books such as The Courage to be Queer.
Then there’s Charles Wade, “a Black Lives Matter activist who operates a social justice charity and was arrested last month on charges of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl,” Chuck Ross reported in The Daily Caller on May 19, 2016. “Charles Wade co-founded Operation Help or Hush in the aftermath of the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.”
While Black Lives Matter claims that it does fundraising for the needy and helps activists to locate food and shelter, a police report obtained by the Daily Caller revealed that Wade was arrested on sex charges involving a 17-year-old girl in College Park, MD.
Thus far, BLM has had a longer life span than the Occupy Wall Street movement, which occupied — among other things — Wall Street, Washington, DC, Seattle and Wal Mart. Nevertheless there was an overlap: Both had an antipathy towards free markets and benefitted from some of the same deep pockets on the Left.
Marxist turned conservative author and activist David Horowitz has noted that the political Left and Satan have at least one thing in common: Both keep changing their names.
Malcolm A. Kline
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.