A brief introduction to #BlackLivesMatter and Colorado

Serena Bettis

#BlackLivesMatter support posts and arguments are trending on all social media platforms since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died due to a Minneapolis police officer placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi created the #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2013 after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s death and the subsequent acquittal of the man who fatally shot him, George Zimmerman. 

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According to blacklivesmatter.com, the project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. 

“As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership,” the website reads. “Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men — leaving women, queer and transgender people and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition.”

The movement grew in strength in August 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Outraged over Brown’s death, the Ferguson community protested for 10 days straight, rallying supporters close to home and on social media.

I don’t know if we have ever experienced this kind of global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism.” -Angela Davis, political activist and author

Colorado producer, storyteller and filmmaker Anthony Grimes founded the Denver Freedom Riders in 2014 to bring protesters from Denver to Ferguson to stand with the people on the ground in Ferguson and St. Louis.

However, protests at the same scale of those in Ferguson did not break out across the country in the weeks following Brown’s death. It was not until November 2014, when a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, that protesters across the country showed their support by gathering in the hundreds in their own cities.

In response, Denver students at East High School organized a walkout that drew nearly 1,000 supporters, and community members marched along streets in downtown. 

On June 9, a video interview with activist and author Angela Davis was posted on Twitter by the Channel 4 News out of the United Kingdom. Davis said that change has to come in many forms. 

“What we are seeing now are new demands,” Davis said. “Demands to demilitarize the police, demands to defund the police, demands to dismantle the police and envision different modes of public safety. We’re asked now to consider how we might imagine justice in the future.” 

This merely scratches the surface of the action the #BlackLivesMatter movement has taken in Colorado and beyond. The BLM website hosts countless stories on local activists and the work they do in their communities, and local activist organizations and history resources are only a Google search away.

“This is a very exciting moment,” Davis said. “I don’t know if we have ever experienced this kind of global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism.”

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Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.