The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was created in 2013 after 17 year old Trayvon Martin was murdered by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was part of a neighborhood watch party that had successfully been catching burglars in their neighborhood. On a personal errand, Zimmerman saw Martin in a grey hoodie walking around the area and believed him to be a suspicious character.
Zimmerman followed him and called the police. Sometime after the call, the two got into an altercation and Martin was shot fatally in the chest.
Zimmerman was questioned by Florida’s Sanford police and released the same day. He was eventually charged with second degree murder but was found not guilty.
Supporters of the movement believed the ruling was unacceptable and began protesting and signing petitions to change the verdict. Although unsuccessful in that regard, the original BLM protestors set a precedent.
Martin was not the first victim of racial inequality, nor would he be the last; however, his death was a spark that forced our nation to have a much needed conversation about those trusted to serve and protect picking and choosing who they believe are worthy enough to be served and protected. Years later, that conversation has started to turn into action.
When George Floyd was publically murdered for buying cigarettes with fake bills by police officer Derek Chauvin, believers in the movement realized that hashtags, kneeling, making educational videos, showing statistics, and politely asking the world to notice and change the situation was not enough to get the point across that black lives really do matter.
Protests popped up everywhere and were filled with people no longer asking for equal treatment but demanding that law enforcement fix the broken system that has cost many Americans their lives and their dignity.
Rallies, marches, and peaceful protests brought many Richmonders together, including some of our very own Godwin students. The idea of unity and togetherness seemed to swarm the atmosphere at these events.
When asked what the best part of the protests was, Godwin senior Mina Carpenter, who attended many BLM protests in Richmond and a protest in D.C., said that “the best part of the protests was coming together as a family and meeting a bunch of really nice people.”
Streets were filled with protesters not only looking out for themselves but also prepared to help others.
“What I remember most about the protest is how kind all the people were. Everyone I could see was wearing masks, trying to keep somewhat of a distance from other groups, handing out water bottles and snacks, lending out medical supplies, and generally being respectful to other protestors” said Godwin senior Lilliana Acosta.
This fight for equality allowed protests to join together and show the power of the community.
“The unity was kinda beautiful. We were all there for one reason, fighting for one cause” said Godwin senior Vyktoria Clement.
Godwin senior Ayla Qureshi also attended multiple protests.
“The amount of love, positivity, and passion in each one never changed,” said Qureshi.
The BLM movement is more than just a trendy hashtag. The goal was to bring people together to fix a broken police system and better our society. Despite the controversial attention the movement has gotten, BLM supporters have been very clear on their intentions and cause.
Unfortunately, protests were often met with force from the police. The police have shown up with tear gas to disperse crowds, shot protesters with rubber bullets, and sprayed people in the face with pepper spray.
“I had only heard of police tear gassing people on the internet until I witnessed it and it completely altered my view towards them from then on,” said Carpenter.
Videos of protestors being dragged and beaten by police swarmed the internet and brought even more attention to policy brutality.
“It shocked me to see how police acted towards people who were being peaceful and how many police were there for a couple of people standing and peacefully protesting,” said Qureshi.
However, the aggressive behavior of law enforcement did not sway protestors from supporting the movement. It took strength to remain in this toxic environment, but these Godwin students never lost sight of their goal.
“People are dying because people of power aren’t trained properly and blatant racism is being dismissed because people of power have a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It is inhumane and protesters won’t stop until there is justice.” said Qureshi.
“This movement is going to continue to grow and we will continue to fight for the rights of minorities and work hard to ensure equality for all people of color,” said Acosta.
This sentiment is what pushed the Civil Rights protestors to make history back in the 60s and has been passed down from generation to generation in order to right the wrongs of oppressors. It is never easy to push for reform, but because of the perseverance of protestors and leaders, change is and will always be possible.
“I am excited to be a part of this movement. Hopefully in 20 years I can tell my kids stories about how horrible it was before and hopefully by then, changes will have been made,” said Clement.
photo courtesy Ayla Quershi