Local proponents of police reform say the Black Lives Matter movement can bring needed change in this year’s election.
As more cases of police brutality emerged in 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement grew stronger — even in New Mexico. And now it is finding it’s way into local discussion and national political debate.
BLM supports James Boyd
In October, Black Lives Matter protesters joined others downtown in Albuquerque to decry the murder trial against former Albuquerque Police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.
The two officers were tried for shooting and killing homeless camper James Boyd in 2014. Afterwards,the U.S. Department of Justice filed a 46-page report on the investigation in the use of deadly force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
In the report, the DOJ called APD’s actions unconstitutional, providing examples from 2009 to 2014.
A Black Lives Matter sign held at the mistrial protest sparked some debate on social media. “The protest is over a white man shot and killed by white police. I’m lost on the situation or is this just looking for free advertisement,” said one New Mexican Facebook user.
Nikki Archuleta, founder of the Girls of Color Coalition, says this comment is not surprising to her. “It’s an understandable response, but it’s an uneducated response. Black Lives Matter advocates for any human being who has lost their life to police brutality.”
Archuleta says there’s a lack of education on the matter. “This comment could have had a conversation about solidarity. Black Lives Matter is standing with James Boyd’s family.”
Supporters of the movement say people are unaware of the meaning of the movement. Archuleta says, “People think it’s solely for black lives, if you visit their website this is not the case.”
On the webpage there is a recent statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement standing in solidarity with the water protesters in Standing Rock.
“They [Black Lives Matter] are aware of police brutality amongst poor people, the homeless, amongst the mentally ill, the LGBTQ community and communities of color,” Archuleta said.
BLM is a topic in the current election
With the growing number of support for the movement, community leaders urge the public to educate themselves on the issue and be aware of the conversations that awaits with elected officials.
Onesimus Al-Amin, UNM graduate and community activist, organized several rallies in Albuquerque to bring awareness to the murders. Al-Amin says the police are not held accountable, allowing them to continuously murder innocent people.
“They can kill you and still get paid. They don’t have any fear of repercussions,” Al-Amin said. “They are already innocent until proven guilty; this applies to certain people of privilege, particularly the police.”
Through the rallies, protesters are pushing for accountability not only for the police but for elected officials.
In regards to our recent election, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked debate between the presidential candidates––each candidate having a different view.
Clinton: “I don’t believe you change hearts, I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” – Black Lives Matter meeting with Hillary Clinton / YouTube
Trump: “I would do stop-and-frisk, I think you have to. We did it in New York; it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive.” – Town Hall / Fox News
Johnson: “I think we’ve all had our head in the sand. And let’s wake up. This discrimination does exist, it has existed and for me, personally, slap, slap, wake up.” – Libertarian Party Town Hall / CNN
With three different approaches on the matter, Archuleta says the candidates have a fixed agenda when it comes to the black community. “They are never supportive of our communities unless they need a vote,” Archuleta said.
Archuleta says although the movement has become important due to the attention during the elections, the movement is larger than that and will be able to stand on it’s own. “Black Lives Matter has taken a stand. We’re tired of waiting for politicians to make change,” Archuleta said. “We’re gonna take matters into our own hands… you don’t want to listen to us, you want to ignore us? We’re going to make you listen, we’re going to show you that this is unacceptable.”
Supporters of the movement hope to bring the focus of accountability from the police departments to our lawmakers, questioning the presidential candidates closely from previous work and socialization.
Al-Amin says the problem with the two prominent candidates is privilege. “We think that because she’s [Clinton] a woman that she’s automatically an ally, she isn’t. She advocated for some of these policies that criminalize black bodies.”
Al-Amin says her privilege allows her to revoke those statements and change her status on the issues.
At the same time, Al-Amin says that he doesn’t fear the results if either of the candidates are elected because Black Lives Matter is a movement.
Al-Amin said, “Regardless of who gets elected the movement, we will still be moving forward.”
BLM members have plans for the movement’s future
A scholar on U.S. racial issues says the next step for the movement is to pursue the public conversation and bring groups together.
Godfried Asante, a Ph.D student, recently worked on a thesis exploring the racialized experiences of African Americans in the U.S. and African immigrants.
During a colloquium held at UNM on Oct. 21, Asante explains the differences experienced by the two groups.
“African migrants and African Americans don’t have the same racialization; the way we are racialized is very different,” Asante said.
For Asante, it’s important to explore the differences between migrants and African Americans. Asante says some migrants say racism doesn’t exist and some African Americans say it does exist; this makes it important to educate the entire black community on the issue of Black Lives Matter.
Asante says the Black Lives Matter movement has given people the microphone like the Civil Rights movement did. “Everyone joins the queue to say, yes it has also happened to me, it happened to me here, it happened to me there,” Asante said.
“The Civil Rights movement gave others a chance, it wasn’t just for black folk,” Asante said.
Archuleta says the next steps here in Albuquerque is to push for a solid Black Lives Matter branch. “I think that we have to build a solid foundation first, in order to bring our community in.”
Community leaders and organizers plan for another protest for the James Boyd mistrial in Albuquerque soon.
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