Changes brought by the Black Lives Matter movement

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The Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are intentionally and systematically targeted for demise. It has been more of a human rights movement as its focus has been less about changing particular laws and more about fighting for an ultimate rearrangement of society where Black lives are freed from systematic dehumanization. Since its formation, BLM has had measurable impacts on society, law enforcement, and the legal landscape through various cases.

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George Floyd’s Case

George Floyd was killed after being stopped by Minneapolis police while leaving a convenience store in May 2020. He was pinned to the ground with a police officer kneeling on his neck for minutes, resulting in his death. Floyd’s death ignited a mass movement focused on perennial police brutality against Black Americans.

The movement resulted in a systematic change in American law enforcement. Specifically, many called for police defunding. As a result, cities and counties have begun restructuring how local budgets and law enforcement are deployed in service of public safety. Some have cut police budgets and channeled the funds to reinvest in community programs such as violence protection and community housing. Currently, at least 20 large U.S. cities have since decreased their police budgets, making a sum of $840 million in reductions (Goodkind, 2021). Additionally, over 25 cities have terminated contracts with local police departments operating in learning institutions (Goodkind, 2021). Therefore, BLM has played a significant role in restructuring police budgets in the U.S.

Moreover, BLM, through the protests of Floyd’s death, resulted in police reforms. Notably, state legislatures passed more than 140 police oversight and reform laws by April 2021 (Eder et al., 2021). It created a trend toward baseline standards for police behavior and accountability. Specifically, the new laws restrict police use of force, neck restraints, and no-knock warrants. The laws also require officers to intervene when their colleagues use excessive force on civilians (Turner, 2021). The oversight laws have also made more police disciplinary records available to the public. Therefore, BLM has greatly contributed to police reforms and oversight in the U.S.

Trayvon Martin’s Case

Trayvon Martin was an African American male teenager who met his death while carrying iced tea and candy, walking from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancé in Florida in 2012. He was spotted by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, who called 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood. A scuffle broke out, and Zimmerman shot Trayvon (Simon, 2017). Angela Corey, the state prosecutor in Trayvon’s case, failed to convict Zimmerman. Contrarily in another instance, Corey prosecuted Marissa Alexandra, a Black woman who did not hurt anybody when firing a warning shot at her abusive ex-husband. Trayvon’s case revealed the unfairness in the criminal justice system; there was an increase in the number of prosecutors targeting young black men while failing to charge, try, or convict police officers who shoot young black men. It sparked BLM actions that led to criminal justice reforms in the U.S.

BLM targeted to remove unjust, prejudiced, and biased prosecutors from office. Through BLM’s efforts, Corey lost her bid for a third term as a state attorney. Corey’s expulsion was a big step in fighting institutional and implicit racism in the judicial system. Since then, BLM has led to ejecting of other high-profile corrupt prosecutors. For example, in Chicago, BLM’s pressure resulted in Anita Alvarez losing her re-election for Cook County prosecutor (ACLU of Arkansas, 2018). Alvarez became infamous for failing to charge police officers who shot dead nearly 68 individuals. Thus, through BLM, the criminal justice system in the U.S. is being molded to be a true representation of what it should be.

Michael Brown’s Case

Michael Brown was an 18-year-old Black male who was shot by a police officer in St. Louis in August 2014. He met his death while confronting the officer (Hare, 2016). His death sparked protests, which BLM led. In addition, Brown’s death led to a deeper look at institutional forces shaping African Americans’ lives and deaths in places such as Ferguson. The department of justice concluded that Ferguson’s police force and courts strategically targeted black citizens for arrests and fines to add funds to the city’s coffers. Therefore, Brown’s death, through BLM, made society more aware of police violence.

The protests associated with Brown’s death brought national attention to BLM, intensifying the awareness of police violence. Even though mainstream journalism is influential in covering and framing state violence and systematic oppression, newsrooms often fixate on the moment of death, leaning on the police narrative (Emmanuel, 2021). Such actions often lead to character assassination of police violence victims.

BLM has changed this by creating a new coverage dynamic. The public outcries pushed with BLM hashtags on social media platforms make media outlets crowdsource video investigations of police use of force, centering accounts from police violence victims and demonstrators rather than relying on police accounts and concerns about property damage. It leads to unbiased reporting of police violence, making the public more aware of it.

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Conclusion

Since its formation, BLM has significantly impacted U.S. law enforcement, the justice system, and society. In law enforcement, BLM has played a major role in restructuring police budgets in the U.S. It has also resulted in police reforms by pushing for baseline standards for police behavior and accountability. In the justice system, BLM has pressured the removal of unjust, prejudiced, and biased prosecutors from office, leading to a decrease in institutional and implicit racism in the judicial system. Finally, BLM has increased society’s awareness of police violence by creating a new coverage dynamic of police brutality.

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  1. ACLU of Arkansas. (2018, July 13). How Black Lives Matter changed the way Americans fight for freedom. https://www.acluarkansas.org/en/news/how-black-lives-matter-changed-way-americans-fight-freedom
  2. Eder, S., Keller, M. H., & Migliozzi, B. (2021, April 18). As new police reform laws sweep across the U.S., some ask: Are they enough? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/18/us/police-reform-bills.html
  3. Emmanuel, A. (2021, February 1). Spurred by Black Lives Matter, coverage of police violence is changing. Injustice Watch. https://www.injusticewatch.org/longreads/2021/nieman-reports-police-violence-coverage-is-changing/
  4. Goodkind, N. (2021, May 26). One year after George Floyd’s murder, the ‘defund the police’ movement falters. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2021/05/25/george-floyd-anniversary-defund-the-police/
  5. Hare, B. (2016, August 9). How did we get here from Ferguson? CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/09/us/ferguson-michael-brown-timeline/index.html
  6. Simon, D. (2017, February 27). Trayvon Martin’s death sparked a movement that lives on five years later. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/26/us/trayvon-martin-death-anniversary/index.html
  7. Turner, N. (2021, May 24). What has changed since George Floyd’s death? Vera. https://www.vera.org/news/what-has-changed-since-george-floyds-death
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