Image by Cooper Baumgartner

BLACK LIVES MATTER: IT'S ORIGINS

Francesca D'Ambrosi

“Black Lives Matter” is an international human rights movement we have all heard about lately. 

It fights against violence and racism towards black people and regularly organizes demonstrations to openly protest against police brutality, racial inequality and, in particular, against police murders of black people.  


The movement was born in 2013 and took its name from the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter; the hashtag flooded social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a man that shot the African-American teen Trayvon Martin, thus killing him. The murder occurred in Sanford, Florida, on the 26th of February 2012. Martin was walking along the road wearing a hooded sweatshirt that covered his head.  George Zimmerman, a vigilante of that neighborhood, thinking Martin was a thief, decided to follow him and face him. Between them there was a physical clash that ended with the killing of Trayvon Martin, through a gun shot straight to the heart. Zimmerman immediately confessed and acknowledged his guilt, but despite that he was declared innocent according to the “Stand your ground” self-defense laws, which allow armed individuals to use deadly force against threats or perceived threats. After the pronouncement of the court, the first protests began. 


The movement gained international visibility in 2014, after the murders of two African-American men, Micheal Brown and Eric Garner, were committed by the police. 

The first of these two homicides, the one of Eric Garner, occurred on the 17th of July 2014 in Staten Island, New York. The 43-years-old died after a respiratory crisis caused by the knee of a policeman on his neck. The second murder, that of Michael Brown, took place in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis in Missouri on the 9th of August 2014. The 18-year-old was killed by a policeman with six gunshots after he refused to get into the police car. In both cases, policemen, despite the evidence of their guilt spread across social media, have gone unpunished. 


In the following years a lot of similar murders followed one another, up to the latest, the one of George Floyd. As we all know and have heard many times in the last days, George Floyd was killed on the 25th of May 2020, by a policeman who choked him with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, careless of the words that the man carried on pronouncing until the time of his death: “I can’t breathe”. Once again, the guilty policeman was not immediately incriminated and, as a straw that broke the camel’s back, this episode has triggered the anger of many American citizens and people all over the world. As a consequence, many protests have been organized in various cities in different countries and millions of people took to the streets in order to stand up openly against police behavior and the clear unequal treatment of black people compared to that used against white people. 


Taking into account these events, we can state that George Floyd’s death is just the tip of the iceberg. Actually, it is a much wider and deeper phenomenon characterized by murder and violence that has been going on for a long time. Now, it’s time to act together, with no more distinctions between races and countries, hoping that our voices will be heard and that we will succeed in changing something.