After the massive protests against police violence and the moving funeral of George Floyd, the civil rights Black Lives Matter is at a turning point. What follow-up can it give to make history? Response Element.
Night after night, thousands of protesters continue to hit the sidewalk in the 50 states to demand more justice and equality since George Floyd’s death. In each procession we sing “Black Lives Matter” (“Life for blacks are counted”), the name of this civil rights that was born in 2013 on social networks. The scope of mobilization, which has a large number of whites, has been outstanding since the 1960s.
“Black Lives Matter Wins”
“Seven years ago, it was extremely radical to say ‘Black lives matter’,” recalled one of the founders of the movement, Patrisse Cullors, recently. Now the three words are written in capital letters on 16th Washington Street, the one leading to the White House. Attitudes have apparently changed: almost half of Americans (49%) now believe that police are more likely to use force exaggerated against a black suspect, compared to 25% in 2016, according to a survey by Monmouth University.
“Black Lives Matter Wins”, the New York Times headlined on June 10. The movement “can cause structural change,” writes Farhad Manjoo, who in his editorial compares the last two weeks of mobilization with the #MeToo movement. Speech has become available on social networks to condemn police violence and systemic racism: the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has been used about 3.7 million times a day since May 26, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
Breaking the police ‘ideological armor’
The New York Times also notes that the collective, which calls for an end to racist police violence but also impunity for the police, allows breaking the “ideological armor” of the police. Several cities have already announced reform of their police services: Houston has banned the use of “bottlenecks”, Washington will exclude trade unions from disciplinary proceedings against its agents, New York has repealed the clause protecting the police accused of “mistakes”.
At the federal level, protesters are also calling on Congress to adopt the “Justice and Policing Act,” backed by more than 200 mostly democratically elected officials. It intends to create a national register of police officers who commit wrongdoing, facilitate legal proceedings against officers and rethink their recruitment and training. Although the future of this text seems highly compromised in the Senate, with a Republican majority, it will have the merit of provoking a debate at the federal level.
“In 60 years inequalities remain”
So much for the progress that has already provoked the outstanding mobilization of the street in recent days on the black issue. But for weeks and months to come, what is the future of Black Lives Matter? Should we expect the movement to stop steaming? Remember that anger that has lit the streets since May 26 has deeper origins than the death of George Floyd. “This case is just a trigger,” said Claire Bourhi’s Mariotti, lecturer at Paris-8 University and specialist in African American history.
Outrage over black Americans for social inequality has long been bridged: 400 years after the beginning of slavery, more than 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, African Americans still have two and a half times more risk of being killed by police than whites. They are too more affected by poverty than whites, over-represented among the victims of Covid-19, as well in the prison population. “In 60 years, nothing has changed, the inequalities remain,” the sociologist concludes, convinced that there will be “other George Floyd”.
Lack of leaders
Black Lives Matter activists, who reject Donald Trump’s policies, are likely to be on the agenda for the next presidential candidates, as was the case in 2016 at Bernie’s Sanders meeting, the failed candidate for the Democratic primary.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden is trying to get closer to the movement as he stood in the polls after giving a speech at George Floyd’s funeral. IN a column in USA Today this week he called for “eliminating systemic racism from our laws and institutions”.
Will the protests continue in this electoral context for several days or even weeks? Claire Bourhi’s Mariotti casts doubt on such a scenario. “In the past, demonstrations of this kind have all been broken down over time,” comments the researcher, who compares this mobilization with that of 1968 after Martin Luther King’s death. “It was also an election year, but the rally that took place in June ended in the summer,” she added.
Another obstacle to the development of this decentralized movement to a dozen local units between the United States and Canada: the absence of a leader. “These movements that are born with social networks are very horizontal, the researcher decrypts. The absence of a charismatic head generally slows down decision-making and measures end steam.”