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Why we need the protest group Black Lives Matter

MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
A protester holds a sign in Monday afternoon's MLK/Black Lives Matter march to the Minnesota Capitol.

In the wake of nationwide protests by the activist group Black Lives Matter, North Miami Beach police have admitted to using the mug shots of African-American teens for target practice at their shooting range, according to a recent NBC video report. 

Valerie Deant, an African-American Army National Guard sergeant whose division was using the shooting range, was shocked when she saw the bullet-riddled pictures in a garbage can. Adding insult to injury, her brother’s image was one of the facial targets, his with a bullet hole in the forehead and right eye.

A teary Deant says a 14-year-old police line-up photo of her brother, who had been processed through the department in 2000 after a drag-racing accident in which two people were killed, was used. She says after serving time he turned his life around and is now a hard-working family man with a wife and children.

Further investigation revealed that all of the images she saw that day were mug shots of African-American males who had been processed through the department.

This egregious action prompts the question: Why is the Black Lives Matter movement being discounted in some quarters given the overwhelming evidence of the legitimacy of its claims?

Granted, the protest movement is not going to be right on all its picks of police shootings. But the glaring numbers require investigation. 

Ohio shooting victim John Crawford III, for instance, had simply been walking through a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, contemplating the purchase of a toy gun — an air gun, similar to a BB gun — for his son when he was gunned down. In the video his back was turned as the police began to fire; he seems to have been shot additional times after he had scrambled for cover, dropping the toy gun on the floor.

lester
Les Lester

In another instance, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police as he brandished a toy gun in a Cleveland, Ohio, park just two seconds after they pulled up to him.

Currently, in Minnesota, leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization have been charged with protesting without permission at the Mall of America on Dec. 20. The Bloomington city attorney’s office has filed the complaint. St. Paul NAACP President Jeff Martin, meanwhile, says his organization will send a letter to the Bloomington attorney’s office requesting that it consider options short of charging organizers.

Wherever there is injustice in a society, activists must go beyond the pale to ensure their voices are heard so justice can be meted out fairly. The Mall of America has received innumerable concessions from the public tax dole. It would be quite fitting for the MOA and the City of Bloomington to get on the right side of history by dropping the charges.

Les Lester is a freelance writer and author of the novel “The Awakening of Khufu.” 

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by cory johnson on 01/22/2015 - 10:17 am.

    The truth matters….

    Perhaps people would more willingly embraces these groups if the focused on real cases of abuse? Using “hands up don’t shoot” insults the intelligence of many citizens and police officers. And protesting on private property after you were told not to and then complaining. when there are consequences smacks of arrogance and entitlement.

  2. Submitted by Chris Williams on 01/22/2015 - 10:35 am.

    I think this is a pretty poorly written argument article. The headline isn’t even addressed. No where in the article is an argument made for why we need the protest group. The article lists some killings, and then complains that protestors might be charged by the City of Bloomington. Neither tell us exactly why we need this particular protest group over other groups trying to address the same issue.

    I particularly disagree with the premise that because the MOA received some tax incentives that this makes protesting on private property ok. Did you go to college? You received education tax breaks from the government. Should I be able to protest on your private property or your home? Have you ever received any social assistance payments? Same idea. Free bus pass or school lunches for your kids? You got something from the government, should I be able to barge into your house and protest? Should I deserve leniency? All this does is show me you have no respect for the law, just like the police who are causing this issue. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    The MOA contacted the protest leaders and informed them ahead of time. The protest leaders had due warning and had to make a choice on whether or not to move their protest. They CHOSE on their own to break the law anyway. I think the City of Bloomington is being lenient enough already by only going after the organizers, and letting all the illegal participants of this protest go free. That’s pretty lenient if you ask me. They were told they could not be there, yet the MOA stood peacefully by, some merchant stores closed and lost money on their own dime when they had to close, they let you have your say even though you were breaking the law, and the protestors are largely being let off the hook. How much more leniency do you think you deserve?

    This isn’t the 50’s anymore. Back then, there was no news reporting on certain issues. There was no internet. There was no radio reporting. The only way to gain awareness was to march in the street. This isn’t your grandpa’s age anymore. Everyone is aware of the issue with our police. There are better and more influential ways to reach many more people than your little protest ever could. In fact, you are doing yourself a disservice and turning off supporters that could be won over to your side when you spend your energy shouting at holiday shoppers and shutting down highways so people are late to work and to pick up kids from daycare.

    I agree 100% with the cause, but not the tactics. You could be doing SO MUCH BETTER! Shadowing police and recording their every move? Totally legal to film in public and it would let them know we’re watching and keeping them accountable. Highly effective. Sharing video of policing acting badly and getting these videos to go viral on social media? Immediately wins people to your cause. Protesting at police stations and city halls? Well, at least you’d be talking to people that can change department policy.

    But no, you’ve decided the best way to promote change is shouting at shoppers and trespassing, shutting down highways and then asking for leniency from the courts and the benefit of the doubt? Umm, isn’t that what the other side is asking for too? All you are doing is reinforcing your own stereotype and irritating others with those tactics.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 01/22/2015 - 11:24 am.

    now that we’ve had the reactionary white perspective….

    So since this isn’t the 50s, we don’t need to march in the street anymore? The article doesn’t raise legitimate points because it is “poorly written”?

    I don’t think the protesters are as arrogant as the Bloomington city attorney that thinks they need to be attacked financially by trying to force them to pay for the police presence at the MOA. By that logic every criminal should be fined the price of any police time that is used in their case. I think the protesters were prepared to be arrested and contest their arrest in court with the threat of a small fine or probation. What the Bloomington attorney is doing is way beyond that and smacks of racism. Funny how whenever anyone questions the actions of the police there is this huge reactionary response from the police and their supporters as if being a cop means you can never do wrong.

    The point of a protest is to be heard. There’s not much point in being off in a field somewhere or on a web site no one visits. By being in a public space, by making it uncomfortable or inconvenient for the public, in a small way they are passing on the pain of an injustice they perceive. I have no pity for someone complaining they were late for work because a protest blocked the road when the point of the protest is to point out that there are police killing and attacking people with no consequence. Poor, poor commuter.

    It is easy to criticize them from the comfort of your desk chairs sitting in front of your computers but it is up to the people out there, the ones putting their lives, energy, time and integrity on the line with actions and not just words to make the decisions of what actions to take. Don’t like it? Join in.

    I remember going to some pretty party like protests on the U of M campus after the Cambodia invasion in 1970. My mom worked at the U at that time and she had a lot of criticism to offer about the hypocrisy and misbehavior of the protesters. It was a good way to avoid admitting that they/we had a point, the war was immoral.

  4. Submitted by Pat Thompson on 01/22/2015 - 01:16 pm.

    A relevant quote

    “I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well-timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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