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People in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have been cowering in fear in previous weeks following the adoption of a security policy that seeks to eliminate individuals the authorities consider ‘dangerous.’ The new policy—proposed by the Ministry of Justice and is in line with the guidelines of the federal government—caused the rise of homicides at the hands of state security, and the lethalities of the policy mainly target the Black youths.
Data from the Institute for Public Security of Rio found that 434 people were killed by the police state of Rio de Janeiro within just the first three months of the year, the independent global media platform Open Democracy reports. The security package ensures that security agents who carry out the exterminations go unpunished.
The fact that Black youths are the main target goes to show that the policy is used to justify the police attacks on the Black civilian population. With this, Open Democracy deems ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a battle cry from the favelas of Brazil to the world as the country’s Black community suffers under the draconian rule of the state.
A Movement for the Black Community
Beyond Brazil, ‘Black Lives Matter’ is also a battle cry for the entire Black community who face state violence anywhere in the world. The movement began in 2013 in the US, when three radical Black organizers created a political will and movement centered on the Black community.
According to the organization’s website, the initiative came as a response to the decision of acquitting George Zimmerman, the murderer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Since its formation, the project has grown to become a member-led organization consisting of over 40 chapters that organize and build local power to fight against the violence on Black communities carried out by the state and vigilantes.
‘Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,’ the organization said. ‘It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.’
More of a human rights movement, BLM focuses on fighting for a basic change in society in which Black people can freely live without systematic dehumanization. Years since it’s spike as a crucial issue, BLM continues to make its impact on the social and political landscape.
Social Media as an Outlet
Since the beginning, BLM has taken to social media to be the outlet of the community’s frustration and call for change against violence against Black people. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag has become the symbol of modern racial injustices, American newspaper USA Today reports.
In fact, a 2018 study by nonpartisan fact tank Pew Research Center found that the hashtag has been used almost 30 million times on Twitter—that’s an average of 17,003 times a day. The hashtag tends to spike following major news events, especially if such events involve the killing of Black people.
The Pew report stated that 69 percent of American believe social media can be a tool to put social issues into political view, while another 67 percent said the platform is an effective avenue to create sustained movements.
‘The main thing that stuck out is really the consistent presence since it [BLM] became popular,’ said Monica Anderson, one of the study’s authors, as quoted by USA Today.
More than a hashtag, BLM’s influence as a key aspect to the wider racial discussion indicates that the movement’s spark in social media is the only beginning, according to Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African American studies at Duke University.
Activists have since developed specific policy recommendations as well as combat police brutality against people of color as a crucial part of the movement’s progressive agenda.
The BLM movement will go down in history as the initiative that began the phenomenon ‘mediated mobilization.’ Since the movement used social media as its primary tool to stir reaction, BLM has successfully utilized the internet as a mass mobilization device.
Changing the Fight for Freedom
With Black liberation organizations acting within the BLM movement, the local and national landscape has seen significant changes such as the ousting of known corrupt prosecutors.
In Chicago, labor groups successfully intervened the re-election bid of Antia Alvarez—who failed to charge police officers who killed at least 68 people in 2017—for Cook County prosecutor.
Students also work under the BLM movement, in which they helped lead the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri when he failed to deal with campus racism, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The movement’s work on the issue of police corruption led to the release of four reports from the US Department of Justice that confirmed the rampant police corruption in Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, and Cleveland.
As the BLM approaches its sixth year founding anniversary, it would do well to contemplate on how it has influenced how society uses social media to start other social movements and talk about social issues.
#BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag, it is a battle cry for a community that has a long history of being oppressed, seeking freedom from the dehumanization of both the state and society.