25th May marked the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd by policeman Derek Chauvin. This event has undoubtedly sparked the most significant wave of racial justice protests in the 21st century. Leading the charge was the Black Lives Matter Movement, which has gained more popularity than ever before. However, like with any other significant movement, we have witnessed intense debates over its real aims, finances, and impact on the areas where its influence is most felt.
Black Lives Matter is an organisation set up in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Initially an online platform providing activists with goals and principles, the organisation had risen to popularity by 2015 when protests in Baltimore followed the severe injuries received by Freddie Gray, an African-American suspect in police custody.
As stated on their website and the "Impact Report 2020", the organisation's main goals are defunding the police, reparations for harms related to slavery, and empowering residents in communities of colour to hire and fire police officers.
The organisation claims that its sole purpose is to improve the lives of black communities and resist "systemic racism" (a term used to describe institutionalised racism in the US). However, it is a well-known fact that Black Lives Matter has strong left-wing views on society and the economy. During the Georgia election run-off, the organisation stated on their website that "they knew they needed to participate in the fight to ensure that both Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof were victorious".
The founders of the movement are also known for very strong left-wing views and values, as demonstrated by Patrice Cullors's quote "We are trained Marxists". The organisation regularly receives support from Democratic Party donors, an example being the Democracy Alliance meeting in 2015, the leaders of which, most notably Leah Hunt-Hendrix (Texas oil fortune heir), had donated more than $200 000 for "movement building".
In 2020, the revenue of Black Lives Matter through donations had reached $90 million. According to the information provided on their website, only 23% of all assets were disbursed to different organisations and BLM chapters in addition to $8.4 million in operating expenses (organising protests, events, making banners and advertisements).
Evidence from the reports suggests BLM doesn't always focus on the economic wellbeing of black communities, which is currently significantly lower than that of white, Asian and Hispanic ones in the US. An example of this includes "Black Trans Femmes in Arts", which is an organisation that regularly receives funding from the movement. BTFA focuses on promoting art made by black transgender women, which has caused controversy; many, including conservative commentator Candace Owens, have argued that poverty in black communities should be a more significant concern for the movement.
Another scandal occurred in August 2020 after several sources claimed that part of the funds raised by BLM are redirected to the Democrat Super PAC and later to the Democratic Candidates, including Joe Biden's 2020 election campaign. This comes from the fact that BLM uses the same platform ActBlue, which the Democrats use to collect funds. Despite the weak evidence, as well as the possibility of this being a coincidence, Black Lives Matter's strong support for the Democratic Party has led to doubts over the organisation's actual aims and values.
The biggest issue surrounding the Black Lives Matter organisation are the 2020 protests, the impact of which is still being debated to this date. The protests have undoubtedly had a positive influence over the events regarding the trial of Derek Chauvin. The pressure created by the movement in Minneapolis and other cities forced the authorities to arrest the policeman and put him on trial. He was later found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
However, there has also been a significant negative impact of the protests, which some would argue outweighs the positive change brought by the movement. The riots in Minneapolis and Atlanta, as well as other cities, led to 19 deaths, the perpetrators in all cases being the protestors themselves. Seven hundred policemen suffered severe injuries, and the economic damage is estimated to be more than $2 billion, significantly higher than the $550 million caused by the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, making the events in 2020 the most destructive period of local unrest in the United States in decades.
What makes matters worse is that a significant part of the rioting and looting happened in black communities, which means the group that was most affected were people of colour who owned small stores in the areas affected. This wave of destruction has led to most of them experiencing such damage that the recovery of businesses in some communities is now virtually impossible.
The BLM leaders have refused to condemn the violence, with one of the most shocking quotes coming from the movement's Chicago organizer Ariel Atkins, who said the looting of downtown stores was "a form of reparations". There is significant evidence suggesting the violence and conflict during the protests was supported by Democrat Party leaders, with the best example being Maxine Waters, a US House Representative, who was present at one of the riots and encouraged the already violent protestors to "get more confrontational" in April 2021 during Derek Chauvin's trial.
Despite the argument that the majority of protestors were peaceful sounds plausible to an extent, the evidence that even peaceful protests can have a negative impact on black communities is more than convincing. Examples of this include the 2015 and 2020 protests, which led to the police being forced to withdraw from proactive policing in black communities due to potential tension and pressure from the media and public.
This, in turn, results in an increase in crime in those neighbourhoods, known as "the Ferguson Effect". For example, in 2015, the top 10 heavily black cities saw a surge in the homicide rate of more than 60% in April, the month of BLM protests in those cities. Even a known left-wing political newspaper Vox admitted the problem was "too clear to ignore" and said the Effect is "correct in at least some cities".
It is, of course, up to the people to decide whether the organisation has a positive or negative impact on black communities. At the moment, the differences in attitudes towards it can be drawn on the left/right political spectrum, further highlighting the movement's ideology. However, it is overwhelmingly clear that Black Lives Matter might not be the organisation it seems from large black-and-yellow "Racial Justice" banners.