NEWARK, NEW JERSEY—The Black Lives Matter movement is renewing its call to end police brutality and pushing for criminal justice reform across the United States. The movement, made up of mostly young African-American activists, is trying to influence public opinion and pressure politicians to take up their cause.
The movement took shape in 2014 after a series of high-profile police encounters that resulted in the deaths of African-Americans. Activists say they want an end to what they describe as police brutality and discrimination in mostly black neighborhoods.
”It’s very important as a people, all of us come together and bring this type of stuff to an end,” said Rashhad Turner of Black Lives Matter Minnesota.
Black Lives Matter generates support on social media and through street demonstrations.
“They need to take it to a higher judicial system to deal with these police officers that are supposed to be out here protecting people when they are out here hurting people,” said a Baltimore resident.
Black Lives Matters has dozens of chapters across the country. Many of its followers are politically independent. Some are unpredictable, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders discovered when confronted by protesters in Seattle.
Critics says the movement isn’t getting the results it wants from lawmakers.
“There are so many kids, and you see it on Facebook and other social media, [who] have died by the police hands. I feel like they are saying black lives matter but they are not doing enough,” said Jasmine Barnett, a student here.
After the execution-style shooting death of a police officer by a black man in Houston, some in law enforcement accused Black Lives Matter of inflaming tensions.
“We have heard that black lives matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we just drop the qualifier and just say all lives matter,” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman.
However, many Black Lives Matter supporters take issue with that sentiment.
“When we say black lives matter, we are not saying no one else matters. We are saying right now we need us [black people] to keep surviving to help you guys [non-blacks] understand what we are trying to say,” said Dennis Rodriguez, a Black Lives Matter supporter.
Former NFL football player Ray Lewis also weighed in.
“All people’s lives matter, I do not care what the color of your skin. If you are a child and you don’t have a choice and there’s a drive-by shooting and that affects you, it does not matter what your race is,” said Lewis.
Black Lives Matter leaders say the movement is playing an important role in the controversial debate about criminal justice reform and in the development of a new generation of activists.