There is an old adage, “there are two sides to every story.” I personally have always liked the rock band Extreme’s take with their album III Sides to Every Story. III Sides to Every Story was a concept album (an outstanding album that stretched genres in hard rock) regarding different “sides” to a story that was divided into three sections – “Yours,” “Mine” and “The Truth.” That concept is more realistic than many who divide things into two sections because, regardless of who is telling the story, there is some truth in both sides. That middle ground – “The Truth” or the third side – is 99 times out of 100 the way something occurred.
When it comes to the case of police shootings, especially of unarmed civilians, across the United States, there has been the grassroots growth of a “side” to help tell their story. The loosely affiliated group known as Black Lives Matter has sprung up across the country, trying to take the helm of the protests against the overreach of law enforcement in its actions against minorities. While a coalition such as this is necessary to continue to keep the focus on the actions of law enforcement, Black Lives Matter isn’t helping the situation and, in fact, the situation overall may be better off if they didn’t intercede.
Black Lives Matter actually date back further than the turmoil that first arose in 2014 and truly exploded over the course of 2015. The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2013 – and his subsequent acquittal in a trial in Florida – brought about the usage of the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” on Twitter, long before any incidences from the past couple of years. It is only with the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York that the founders of BLM emerged as a nationwide organization. As of today, there are now 23 chapters of BLM, spread across the U. S., Canada and Ghana.
According to their website, BLM is an organization “intended to build connections between Black (sic) people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.” What you won’t find on this webpage is the one thing that is critical for any organization to have to be successful in their endeavors – leadership on a national level. Without this leadership, the message of BLM can sometimes get lost and, in some cases, the tactics used by those in the organization’s name can be a detriment to the overall cause of the group.
We only have to look back to 2011 to see what happens when a movement initially has a good purpose but gets derailed by the lack of recognizable leadership. In September 2011, protesters took to the grounds of Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Wall Street area to protest against the largesse of the “1%.” What came to be called “Occupy Wall Street” intended to bring attention to several facets of life in today’s world – wage inequality, financial corruption, the other reasons behind the financial collapse that brought the Recession of 2008 to life – but gradually devolved into something that was nowhere near what the original intentions of the group had been.
By the time the protesters and their tent city in Zuccotti Park was busted up in November, there were various fringe elements hanging on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. This occurred because there was no leadership for the group to issue its thoughts, its beliefs, its coherent goals. Instead of actually having an impact, by the time the Zuccotti Park grounds were cleared, there was little that was actually accomplished by the Occupy Wall Street “movement.”
In many ways, BLM is seemingly on the same path that the OWS movement trod before them. BLM initially had a very solid reason for coming together – the killing of unarmed men (in this case black) by law enforcement under suspicious circumstances – but lacked a national coalition to be able to organize its “chapters” and drive this message home first. As a result of the inability to have a focal point to work from, the individual chapters have gone about pushing the message to the people in all the wrong ways.
One of the most obvious methods of protesting was taken from the old marches from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in blocking roadways while delivering the message through a walking protest. In some areas, however, BLM supporters weren’t just satisfied with getting their message across through a moving march, they decided to lie in the streets of major cities and block traffic, sometimes for hours on end. This method of protest violates one of the major keys of protesting: don’t offend those whose opinions you’re trying to sway.
This style of protest became even more prevalent during the holidays this year. In Chicago – where there are seriously some issues with the police department – BLM protesters disrupted holiday shopping on Black Friday along the “Magnificent Mile,” the line of high end shops in the Windy City. It even reached the point that the Mall of America and the Minneapolis Airport (a city also protesting a police shooting) was the site of sometimes violent clashes between BLM and law enforcement.
Once you’ve made the point of your protest, then you can let life return to normal for people who had nothing to do with the situation. If you either continue to push your demonstration (look at the two months of OWS and how public opinion changed there) and exceed a reasonable amount of time, you can turn public opinion against your group and, hence, your cause. What was the reason for denying people the ability to shop? To really make them dislike you? That isn’t a desired end for the protests.
The next one was much more sinister in its message. According to several media outlets, marchers who were offered a booth inside the Minnesota State Fair this summer to advocate for their cause refused said location to instead march directly in the street outside the entrance to the carnival. During this march, the BLM banner was flying while the marchers chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Law enforcement officials viewed this as a death threat against officers (a reasonable assumption), one that was weakly refuted by BLM “leaders” who said they didn’t hear such words being used (the You Tube links are quite numerous).
Finally, there’s been the methods used by the movement to thrust themselves into the 2016 Presidential race. Through virtually storming several campaign stops – on both the Democratic and Republican sides – the BLM movement has tried to make their cause celebre the focal point of what is a very complex election (even to the point of demanding from each party a Presidential debate on racial justice; both parties declined). Not only have the persons involved with the organization disrupted several speeches from Presidential candidates, they have caused several campaign stops to be closed due to their disruptions.
Once again, with a solid national leadership and some organization, this wouldn’t have to happen. With those simple pieces of structure, there wouldn’t be the turn against BLM that there has been. I personally have several issues that are quite important to me in this campaign (on the federal, state and local levels) – the revamping (training, screening and monitoring) of law enforcement can be done on the state or local levels, not on the federal one.
Now you might say, “Well, you don’t understand, you’re white…” and you would be correct. I don’t understand what it is like to constantly be thought of as breaking the law by simply being a certain ethnicity. I don’t understand what it is like to be viewed with suspicion in virtually every aspect of life because of my skin tone. I do understand, however, that things can be changed through solid leaders and national organization…right now, Black Lives Matter doesn’t have that and they should remove themselves from the equation with law enforcement until there is such organization as mentioned previously to this organization that could do a great deal for life in these United States.