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What is the Black Lives Matter movement and when did it start?

Although the #BlackLivesMatter movement is at the heart of the protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police it dates back to 2013.

Estados UnidosUpdate:
Protestas en Estados Unidos por la muerte de George Floyd. 2020.

On May 25, George Floyd a 46-year-old black man was killed in Minneapolis when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was handcuffed and unarmed. The police had been called because staff in a grocery store suspected Floyd had been trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was sacked and now faces murder and manslaughter charges.

Protests erupt at the killing of George Floyd

The brutal treatment of George Floyd at the hands of the police was captured by passers-by and spread rapidly around the internet, leading to shock, outrage and anger around the globe, and in particular among Americans as another example of the latent racism in the country and the likelihood of black people suffering at the hands of the police. The widespread feeling: the chances of a white person dying at the hands of the police for being suspected of passing a counterfeit bill are as close to negligible as makes no difference.

In reaction to the death of George Floyd millions of people have taken to the streets in protest, using as their slogan both his dying words "I can't breath" and "Black Lives Matter", a phrase already etched in the consciousness of the struggle for justice.

Where did the Black Lives Matter movement start?

Black Lives Matter, which is now an international human rights movement, began in 2013 as a #hashtag after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting and death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.

17-year-old Martin was walking alone when confronted by Zimmerman who fatally shot the teen in the chest after an altercation. Initially, police argued there was no evidence to refute Zimmerman's claim of self-defence under Florida's stand your ground law and refused to charge him. He was eventually brought to trial on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges after widespread anger over the decision, but he was acquitted by a jury.

The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in response as an online campaign by three black community organisers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

The movement gained further momentum after the death of Eric Garner in New York, who died on 17 July, 2014 after an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold. Garner repeated the phrase "I can't breath" 11 times.

The first street demonstration organised by Black Lives Matter took place in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting on 9 August, 2014 of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. It has since been an integral part of demonstrations across the US in response to racism and violence suffered by black people, particularly at the hands of the authorities.

Meanings of Black Lives Matter

The phrase Black Lives Matter now refers to the Twitter hashtag, the slogan itself, the social movement and a loose confederation of groups who advocate for racial justice.