Activists from prominent black American rights movement, Black Lives Matter, has refused to back any candidate in the run up to the upcoming 2016 presidential elections. Alicia Garza, one of the group’s founders, in an Associated Press interview, has explained that the group will not endorse any candidate for the next US president after Barack Obama and instead will be focusing on keeping its political momentum by accounting presidential candidates over the exploitation and mistreatment of African Americans in United States. The movement has announced that it will stage a number of protests during the election campaign to raise voice for the rights of African Americans.
Speaking at the 7th Annual Black Women’s Roundtable Policy Forum last week, Garza highlighted that “sometimes you have to put a wrench in the gears to get people to listen”.
How the movement started
The Black Lives Matter movement began in the wake of the fatal killing of the African-American 17-year-old, Treyvon Martin in Florida in 2012 by perpetrator George Zimmer. It later received nationwide attention following the shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown by a white officer last summer in Ferguson, Missouri.
The African-American rights group campaigns for the mistreatment and police brutality of white police officers against unarmed black American males. Since the deaths of Michael Brown and Trevyon Martin, a number of protests and social media campaigns have been initiated under the Black Lives Matter hash tag.
The most recent death protested by the movement is of 43 year-old Samuel DuBose, who was detained by a white police officer, Ray Tensing, during a traffic stop for missing a front license plate. Tensing shot DuBose when he started the car that, according to Tensing, began to drive off after Tensing’s arm got caught in it.
However, footage from Tensing’s bodycam showed that Tensing was, in fact, not being dragged off and was later charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter by a grand jury in court. Tensing was later fired from the police department and is awaiting a trial on November 16 following his refusal to plead guilty to the charges, the sentence of which can lead to a life in imprisonment without parole for 15 years.
The movement has also been responsible for interrupting a number of speeches of both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The group received immense coverage after disrupting a Seattle rally last month. The Democratic presidential candidate and senator, Bernie Sanders, was shoved aside by Black Lives Matter activists and had to leave the rally without making a speech. It began when Sanders was just about to address a considerable number of on-lookers when two black grabbed the microphone and urged everyone to have a few minutes of silence for the death of Michael Brown.
When the women were requested to allow Senator Sanders to speak, one of them addressed the crowd as ‘white supremacist liberals’ according to witnesses. However, Nikki Stephens, the Seattle Facebook page operator of the group issued a public apology to supporters of Bernie Sanders, saying that the actions of the women did not represent the understanding of the African-American rights movement.