Breaking down Black Lives Matter case-by-case…
By: Hayden Cunningham
Black Lives Matter has become a powerful activist group in recent years. It has been invited to the White House during the Obama administration, and is once again applauded by the administration currently in office. But the BLM organization as a whole is rooted in a lie regarding this country’s justice system.
What does it mean to say “Black Lives Matter?” Of course black lives matter, almost everyone in this country agrees with that. But not everyone agrees that the organization is for the greater good of society. The co-founder of BLM describe herself as a “trained Marxist.” Their website has included demands unrelated to their cause such as the “liberation of Palestine” and the abolishment of the Nuclear Family.
Of course, it is worth pointing out to BLM that the Nuclear Family is pivotal to the black community. The Nuclear Family is one with a mother and a father, and the biggest problem for black youth is the absence of two parents (typically a father). Why would you attack the very thing black children need?
Regardless of their ignorance, Black Lives Matter calls for destructive policies like this and the abolishment of police altogether. They site police interactions that receive nationwide attention: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, George Floyd, etc. But most of the claims made in the heat of these cases are not true. Even though a cop is 18 times more likely to be killed by someone who is black then a black person is to be killed by a cop, the narrative remains that cops are out to kill black kids. This rhetoric ramped up with President Obama, and now President Biden’s statements agree with the accusations that America is systemically racist.
In 2019, there were 9 unarmed black individuals shot by the police. In the same year, the number of black individuals shot who were unarmed and not fleeing the scene was 3. Just one unjustified death is too many, but it is hardly proof of a system where cops are out to shoot black people and get away with it (especially when the number for white people was 15).
The point of this article is to take the top BLM cases issue-by-issue. It is not to justify the actions of officers or make the claim that the police system is perfect. It is simply to show that these high-profile police interactions are unrelated. To tie them together through a lens of race is dishonest and manipulative.
Trayvon Martin (2012)
George Zimmerman (a mixed race, white and Hispanic individual) was a member of a neighborhood watch group for his gated community. As Trayvon Martin was walking through the neighborhood, Zimmerman began to follow him. He claimed that Martin was suspicious, stating that he was “just walking around looking about” and “looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something.” He also stated that Martin had his hand in his waistband and was looking around at homes.
Due to recent break-ins in the neighborhood, Zimmerman called the police non-emergency number to report Trayvon Martin’s behavior. Martin took of running, presumably after noticing that Zimmerman was following him. Zimmerman, on the phone with a dispatcher, acknowledged that he was following Martin. The dispatcher explained that he did not need to follow him, to which Zimmerman responded “okay.”
George Zimmerman proceeded to follow Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claims that the two encountered one another, and at this point Martin punched Zimmerman in the face and repeatedly beat his head into the pavement. Martin and Zimmerman began fighting over the gun Zimmerman had on him. Zimmerman obtained his gun and shot Trayvon Martin.
It was unclear how the fight began, but witnesses and autopsy reports concluded that Martin was eventually on top of Zimmerman and was repeatedly beating him.
Following the incident, news pundits claimed that Zimmerman’s actions were racially motivated. However, there was no evidence to conclude that was true. Black relatives of Zimmerman explained that he never gave them a reason to believe he held racial prejudice. He also had an extensive history of police calls regarding suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
Zimmerman was charged with murder, but was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. The Department of Justice (under the Obama administration) investigated the case and found no additional charges to bring forward.
This case is one of several that involves an over-zealous individual trying to be a neighborhood hero. Did George Zimmerman need to follow Trayvon Martin? Of course he didn’t. He did not need to try to play cop, especially with a person he does not have sufficient evidence to believe is committing illegal activity. But this aside, was his shooting justified? Of course it was.
Michael Brown (2014)
The original claim was that Brown was shot in the middle of a street by an officer shooting him in the back. It was also said that Brown had his hands up and yelled “don’t shoot!” at the officer. These claims were never true. An FBI investigation determined that he never had his hands up nor did he yell “don’t shoot” before he was shot.
Security camera footage from a gas station shows Michael Brown stealing a box of cigars and shoving a store attendant into a glass display case. Later, Officer Darren Wilson drove by Brown as officers were looking for the individual who robbed the store. As Wilson went to get out of his car, Michael Brown shut the door of his police car, then proceeded to reach through the window to grab the officer’s gun. Wilson fired the gun and Brown ran. Wilson began to chase Brown. The 6 foot 4, 292 pound Michael Brown turned, charged at the officer, and Wilson fired on Brown.
Several anonymous, black witnesses made statements that supported Wilson’s side of the story (that Michael Brown charged the officer). Further investigation including blood spatter and bullet casings drew conclusions consistent with Wilson’s story.
The autopsy of Brown’s body showed that he was not shot with his hands up. It also showed that he was high at the time of death.
“Hands up, don’t shoot!” became a rally cry for Black Lives Matter. But the phrase was founded on a lie.
George Floyd (2020)
The most famous case of them all. Floyd’s death led to a summer of rioting across the country. During these riots, more than 25 individuals were killed, hundreds of officers were injured, and $2 billion dollars worth of property damage occurred.
George Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill in a convenience store to purchase cigarettes. The store clerk, suspecting the bill to be counterfeit, asked Floyd to return the cigarettes. Floyd refused and left the store. Because the store has a policy that any lost money is deducted from that employees paycheck, the clerk followed Floyd outside and again asked if he could return the cigarettes. He again refused. The clerk called the police for the use of a counterfeit bill, and also stated that Floyd was “not in control of himself.”
The police arrived and approached Floyd in his vehicle. The interaction was recorded on officer Derek Chauvin’s body cam. Floyd was refusing to put his hands up, and was acting delirious. Chauvin drew his gun when Floyd was reaching down and refusing to show his hands. Once Floyd put his hands up, Chauvin holstered his weapon. Floyd began crying, and saying “don’t shoot me.” Chauvin repeatedly says “I’m not going to shoot you.”
It’s worth noting that George Floyd has a drug and criminal history. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon several years ago for pulling a gun and shoving it into the gut of a woman. He also has a history of resisting police arrest. This matters in this event because officers run the name and plates of the individual they are interacting with. Seeing that Floyd has a history of resisting arrest changes their behavior. Also regarding the police encounter Floyd had in 2019 where he resisted arrest, he swallowed the drugs he had on him to get rid of the evidence.
The policy began to take Floyd into custody. He began acting more erratic but denied that he was on any drugs. When officers tried to place Floyd in the back of the cop car, Floyd became increasing hostile and begged to not be put in the car. George Floyd said he was claustrophobic and he was going to die in the back of the car, but the officers said he was still going into the car. He asked if the cop could stay with him, and one officer replied “I will.” The officers said they would roll the windows down for Floyd and turn on the air-conditioning because of his claustrophobia. He said that if he was put in the car, he wouldn’t be able to breathe.
It was when he was sitting inside the police car that George Floyd first said “I can’t breathe.” There was nothing preventing him from breathing in the police car. Him repeatedly saying he could not breathe was presumably because of his active drug use. Floyd said “I want to lay on the ground” instead of being in the car. As he continued to refuse to comply, the officers decided to let him lay down on the street as requested. To restrain him from running away, officer Chauvin placed his leg on Floyd’s body in a way that was in accordance with Minneapolis Police procedure. A later video from another angle of the neck kneeling showed that officer Chauvin did not have his foot on his neck for the majority of the 9 minutes he was on the ground. Rather, his leg was on Floyd’s shoulder. While on the ground, video shows George Floyd make a statement that sounds like “I ate too many drugs.”
A large crowd began to form around the officers, and bystanders were yelling. Chauvin continued to stay on top of Floyd until back-up could arrive. The paramedics were called by the police and arrived on scene. The paramedics waited to try to resuscitate Floyd until he was in the ambulance, which is common practice when there is a large crowd.
The autopsy report showed that George Floyd died of asphyxiation (being deprived of oxygen). Asphyxiation can be caused by a physical act, but can also be caused by drug use. Floyd was intoxicated at the time with fentanyl in his body, had recent methamphemaine use, and had a heart disease. The medical examiner originally stated that if this body was found in his room, he would have immediately assumed it was a drug overdose.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The maximum sentence is 40 years in prison. The unanimous jury only had 10 hours of consideration.
Several concerns have been raised following the conclusion of the trial. Brandon Mitchell, one of the jurors and a supporter of BLM, claimed that people should “get in these rooms” to “spark change.” A 2020 photo was released of him wearing a BLM T-shirt that said “get your knee off our necks.” Another juror said that during the selection, she had seen the footage of Chauvin already and it “left her with a somewhat negative view of Chauvin.” A third juror, before being selected, said that police used excessive force (a conclusion she made before seeing the evidence in court). Given these circumstances, it’s hard to claim that this was a fair and impartial trial.
Another juror said she was worried about rioting if Chauvin was not convicted. At the time of the trial, political figures like Maxine Waters stated that if the verdict was not guilty, there would be more outage. Standing behind protestors/rioters, Waters stated that they needed to be “more confrontational” and show “that we mean business.” The judge even asked political leaders to stay out of the verdict while the case is being discussed. In the heat of all this, witness Barry Brodd had a pig’s head at the doorstep of his former home (presumably meaning the vandals thought he still lived there).
The questionable impartiality of the jury, along with social and political pressure of witnesses and jurors may be grounds for an appeal of a mistrial.
The social arguments brought forward against Chauvin would be murder, excessive force, and racism. Here are each three:
There are several forms of legally-defined murder:
- First degree
- An individual plans and carries out a deliberate act of murder on another person.
- ex. Husband goes to his ex-wife’s house and kills her
- Second degree
- An individual has an intent to kill in the spur of the moment.
- ex. In the heat of an argument, a wife pulls out a gun and kills her husband
- Third degree
- An individual has reckless disregard in their actions that result in the death of a random person. Also known as depraved-heart murder, this is where the reckless action is aimed at a group of people and kills someone.
- ex. Throwing a brick from a freeway overpass. Hits and kills a driver
- Felony murder
- Typically classified under second degree murder. While committing a felony, an individual kills a person.
- ex. A bank robber shoots a bystander while escaping
- An individual’s actions unintentionally kill another person.
- ex. Car accident
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- An Individual intends to harm, but not kill a person, and that person dies.
- ex. Fist fight
The type of hold Chauvin used on George Floyd is taught by the Minneapolis Police Department. The police training materials involve a “maximal restraint technique” which is a knee-on-neck hold. The training states to roll the individual on their side afterward, something that Derek Chauvin did not do. The training also does not state the time limit before turning the individual on their side.
The officer’s use of force has to be reasonable to the threat occurring to them. A police use-of-force expert named Barry Brodd testified in court that Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable. He explained that a suspect in custody would have an officer on them to reduce mobility, and the suspect would be on their stomach rather than their back so that they do not asperate on vomit.
Regardless of the events that occurred, the court found zero evidence that officer Chauvin’s actions were racially-motivated in any way. Yet, this case became the face of systemic racism allegations against the police.
A slim argument regarding excessive force or manslaughter could be made for Chauvin, but there is not a solid argument for any degrees of murder. When concluding how Derek Chauvin should be convicted, it’s important to understand what the term “beyond a reasonable doubt” means. When a court finds someone guilty, they must be able to conclude that the individual is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. To not convict someone does not necessarily mean they are innocent, but rather it means there was a lack of sufficient evidence to convict them. This is how our court system works, and this case shows a strong argument for reasonable doubt.
When you watch the entire footage leading up to the neck kneeling, it becomes clear there are many factors in the cause of George Floyd’s death. Floyd reportedly said he couldn’t breathe before he was even on the ground. Floyd was incredibly high and he had a heart condition. Chauvin was following Minneapolis Police Department policy. Nothing Chauvin did shows that he intended to kill George Floyd. There is plenty of reasonable doubt of whether or not Chauvin’s actions killed George Floyd. This case is also a strong argument for police training reform.
Jacob Blake (2020)
The killing of Jacob Blake set the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin on fire. Joe Biden even visited Blake after the police altercation happened, citing it as an example of systemic racism. Kamala Harris visited Blake as well, stating that she was “proud” of him.
Prior to this incident, Jacob Blake had broken into his girlfriend’s house and digitally raped her while her daughter was next to her. The girlfriend filed a report against Blake and a restraining order against him, so he was not allowed at her home where she lived with their children. On the day of the shooting, Blake returned to her home and had stolen her car keys.
His girlfriend called 9-1-1 and said he was trespassing on her home. The officers were informed that Blake had a warrant for his arrest for the sexual assault as well as domestic abuse. When the police arrived, there was a verbal fight outside the home. The car was parked on the street with a child inside. An officer testified that his girlfriend was screaming “He’s got my kids, he’s got my kids.” Because of this, the officers assumed that Blake was attempting to kidnap the child and steal the car.
The officers proceeded to take Jacob Blake into custody. The officers brought Blake to the ground and restrained him, but he fought back. Blake got up from the ground and walked over to the the driver’s side of the car door. As officers ordered him to stop moving, Blake reached into his car. He was then shot 7 times. It was later confirmed that Blake was reaching for a knife in the car.
What alternative do BLM activists have for the police’s actions in Kenosha? When an individual has a warrant under his arrest for sexual assault, is resisting arrest, is attempting to steal a car and presumably kidnap his child, and is reaching into his car which they later find out was for a knife to presumably stab the officers… should he have not been shot? And if so, what should the officers have done instead?
Blake’s death was another large movement in the left’s culture. Sports teams like the Lakers changed their logos to say “Justice for Jacob Blake.” NBA players on the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play after seeing the video of the shooting. “Say his name” was the trend following Jacob Blake’s death. To which I respond regarding the woman he assaulted, “say her name.” How can you claim to be an advocate of the #metoo movement while also believing that a social worker, not an officer with a weapon, should have been dispatched to the scene?
Ma’Khia Bryant (2021)
The police received a call about a domestic dispute. As the police arrives on the scene, the officer sees the altercation in the driveway. Several people are fighting and shouting. Ma’Khia Bryant is shouting that she is going to stab another girl. Waving a large knife, Bryant attempts to stab a girl. The officer fires on Ma’Khia Bryant, ultimately killing her.
Video footage from the event clearly shows the officer shooting Bryant as she is trying to stab another girl. It also showed Bryant’s father trying to kick a girl on the ground.
NBC News originally released an edited version of the clip where they did not show the knife nor did they release the 9-1-1 call. This case is clearly an obvious example of blindness among Black Lives Matter activists. Many politicians and celebrities had controversial statements made about this shooting. Even Lebron James tweeted out a picture of the officer who committed the shooting, with the caption “you’re next!” in all caps (referring to Chauvin being found guilty). What no one in the mainstream media will point out is the fact that the officer also saved a black life that day. While he shot and killed a girl trying to commit murder, he saved the innocent victim who would have died had he not fired his gun.
How can we fix things?
Black Lives Matter has called to question various forms of police reforms, and for that reason I applaud them. Unfortunately, their allegations are predicated on the lie that the police systems are systemically racist. You can’t find common ground if one side’s beliefs are predicated on a lie.
Here are a list of actual police reform actions that should be discussed:
- Ending qualified immunity for officers.
- Body cams for every officer.
- Abolishing police unions. Bad officers should not be protected by a union.
- Better police officer records. A bad cop who gets fired should not be able to move to a new city and a new state to become an officer there.
- More training. Officers should have to spend at least 25% of their time training.
- Higher PT requirements.
- More submission hold training (not choke holds), and maybe even Jiu-Jitsu training. If an officer is able to be confident in his ability to physically put a suspect into submission, he will be less likely to use a weapon.
- Time limits. Officers should not be allowed to work over-time, and should not be allowed to work too many hours in the day/week.
- More policing in high crime neighborhoods.
There are sensible examples of police reform that can be debated. The problem is this: you have the loudest members of the left who determine that every cop is part of a racist system that needs to be torn apart, and you have the loudest members of the right who believe that all cops are heroes. The right does not question police authority as much as they should, while the left yells ACAB (all cops are bastards).
Black Lives Matter is a dishonest organization. Almost every single case they use to cite racism has no signs of racially-motivated murder. Most cases have escalated conflict that occurs because of a suspect’s refusal to comply. Regardless, BLM continues to push their false narratives, then they profit off the money they raise. The co-founder of BLM recently purchased a $3 million dollar home in a majority white neighborhood. People including the father of Michael Brown ask where the $90 million dollars of money raised went. Still, sports teams and celebrities wave the BLM logo to prove that they “support social change.” Maybe they should spend more time fighting against the black-on-black crime in Chicago that kills hundreds every year.
Remember that when a video is released of a police interaction, it perfectly acceptable to say “I am waiting for more evidence to come out before I have an opinion.” Not only is it acceptable, it’s the mature and proper thing to do. Questioning the context of a video, using proper news sources, and seeking truth are necessary actions we all need to take in order to have civil discourse. If we as a society can agree to wait for the facts, and take each event issue-by-issue, we will be capable of solving actual problems and improving the way police interactions occur nationwide.