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Black Lives Matter Demands have Virtually Nothing to do with the Police by Daniel Bier

On August 1, the “Movement for Black Lives” (an umbrella organization for about 50 groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement) released a list of demands going into the general election campaign. The New York Times reports,

The list of six platform demands is aimed at furthering their goals as the presidential campaign heads into the homestretch. … As part of the effort, the groups are demanding, among other things, reparations for what they say are past and continuing harms to African-Americans, an end to the death penalty, legislation to acknowledge the effects of slavery, as well as investments in education initiatives, mental health services and jobs programs.

If that sounds like a sprawling and unfocused wish list, that’s not the half of it.

The “six” demands actually contain 38 bullet points, most containing several different policies, including such pressing concerns as: forgiving student loans; restoring Glass-Steagall’s ban on affiliations between investment and commercial banks; ending the privatization of natural resources; ending charter schools; “reparations” for “food apartheid”; more universal-y universal health care; a “progressive restructuring of the tax code”; “radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth”; net neutrality; banning super PACs; public financing of elections; blocking the Trans Pacific Partnership; and, who could forget, “divestment from industrial multinational use of fossil fuels and investment in community-based sustainable energy solutions.”

Out of well over a hundred demands, only a handful are related to policing — including one demanding a ban (!) on police body cameras.

If you ever worry about your movement drifting off message, this is the apotheosis of that problem.

Demand Everything, Get Nothing

There are a number of demands about other aspects of criminal justice, but even where they are laudable, they are often unrealistic (abolishing all juvenile detention centers), counterproductive (abolishing money bail), marginal (ending the “privatization of police, prisons, jails, probation, parole, food, phone” and “all other criminal justice related services”), tangential (abolishing the death penalty), or just strange (a new constitutional amendment that guarantees “freedom from unwarranted search, seizure or arrest”).

Some demands were important, on message, and somewhat feasible. They call for decriminalizing drugs and prostitution, expunging drug and prostitution records, demilitarizing police, and establishing civilian oversight agencies for police.

But the trouble is that these urgent and critical reforms are buried under an avalanche of irrelevant policies, vague platitudes, and demands for free stuff — lots of free stuff: free daycare, free Internet, free health care, free elder care, free “high quality food,” a guaranteed minimum income, free college, ad infinitum.

For the most part, the demands read like recycled Bernie Sanders campaign literature — a hodgepodge of left-wing gripes about everything from climate change and Uber to banking and trade policy.

“Freedom Fighters and Political Prisoners”

The platform also calls for the release of “political prisoners” and the removal of “legitimate freedom fighters” from the FBI’s list of terrorist fugitives. Who are these persecuted heroes? The document refers to several former members of the Black Liberation Army, including:

  • Assata Shakur (aka Joanne Chesimard), convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, who escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she still lives;
  • Kamau Sadiki (aka Freddie Hilton), captured in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison for the 1971 ambush murder of an Atlanta police officer;
  • Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom), currently serving life sentences for killing two cops in New York in 1971, who also pled guilty to manslaughter charges in the killing of another cop in San Francisco;
  • Jamil Abdullah al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown), former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and one-time Minister of Justice for the Black Panther Party, currently serving life in prison for the 2000 murder of a Georgia sheriff’s deputy.

The platform doesn’t try to exonerate any of these figures, but simply declares them “freedom fighters,” and further insists that law enforcement “cease all current investigations and cold cases into former activists.”

These demands, perhaps more than anything else in the platform, do Black Lives Matter a grave disservice, especially in the wake of the Dallas sniper attack. Praising cop killers will not alleviate fears that Black Lives Matter supports killing cops.

When in an Emergency, Act Urgently 

Contrast the “Movement for Black Lives” demands with the agenda of “Campaign Zero,” another group founded by Black Lives Matter activists to reduce police killings. Last August, they presented a list of ten specific, sensible police reforms. As Radley Balko commented then:

Critics and police organizations have portrayed Black Lives Matter as radical, anti-police, and anti-white. But the policies Campaign Zero is pushing are none of those things. Instead, they’re practical, well-thought out, and in most cases, achievable. Most will also directly benefit everyone — not just black people.

In most cases, the policies Campaign Zero is suggesting are already in place in one or more police departments across the country… It makes it more difficult for police groups to portray those proposals as “anti-cop.” But it also makes it easier to pitch those ideas to policymakers and the public. They’ve already been field-tested. As a set, these policies are more a list of “best practices” than revolutionary reform.

A few of the proposals will be a tougher sell, but even those are far short of world-shaking. There are no calls to disarm the police. No calls to abolish law enforcement agencies. No demands that police unions be prohibited. This isn’t a fervid manifesto. It’s a serious effort to solve a problem.

So what does Campaign Zero want? Here’s their list:

  1. End Broken-Windows Policing
  2. Community Oversight
  3. Limit Use of Force
  4. Independent Investigations and Prosecutions
  5. Community Representation
  6. Body Cams/Film the Police
  7. End Policing for Profit
  8. Training
  9. Demilitarization
  10. Fair Police Union Contracts

(Read more about these here and here.)

Each of these policies has additional components, of course, and some will be harder to achieve than others. But all of them fit together as a coherent agenda, pointing towards a specific goal: reducing the number of violent police encounters.

By limiting unnecessary stops, ensuring transparency and accountability, and reining in use of force and military tactics, Campaign Zero hopes to improve community-police relations and stop violent encounters before they start. Their reforms are realistic and focused on the most crucial points: union contracts, use-of-force policies, public transparency, police training, independent oversight, and policies that treat citizens like cash registers and incentivize a lot of low-level harassment.

“Its practicality is undoubtedly born of urgency,” Balko writes. “There’s no time for wild-eyed ideology when people are dying.”

And that’s really the issue here: people are dying — over 1,300 last year alone — most “justifiable,” but surely not all necessary. If this is a crisis worth stopping traffic over, it deserves to be treated as an emergency, not as a façade for a refurbished Occupy Wall Street manifesto. It is incumbent on everyone to take it seriously and address it seriously. Campaign Zero does, and if you’re looking to understand what Black Lives Matter is all about, check out their proposals — and leave the Glass-Steagall debate for a different time.

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of FEE.org. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

RELATED ARTICLE: Jewish groups shocked after Black Lives Matter releases manifesto accusing Israel of ‘genocide’

A Golden Nugget Hidden in the Trump Spectacle

I know. I know. As a veteran political activist, I am suppose to be extremely upset with Donald Trump, out there saying what some on both sides of the political aisle consider to be outrageous things.

But folks, I cannot help myself. It is thrilling to watch someone in the arena of ideas not playing the game according to the dictates of the Left. For far too long, our anti-America enemies on the Left have been allowed to set the rules of engagement. The Left dictates what truths we can say out loud, what words we are permitted to use and what is racist or mean.

Please note. I am neither supporting nor opposing Trump’s comments. I am celebrating Trump’s refreshing unprecedented fearlessness in dealing with the iron-fist out-of-control bullying tactics of the Left/MSM.

I guess it goes back to my childhood living on the mean-streets of Baltimore projects. I detested bullies. They were cowards and mean opportunists. My cousin Jimmy, who loved to fight, taught me the power of a strong military. I was small as a child. When bullies took my lunch money, cousin Jimmy ended the problem. Nothing serious happened, but the bullies knew not to “mess” with Jimmy’s cousin, Peanut (my nickname).

I view the mainstream media and their Leftists partners as the ultimate bullies, whipping Americans into submission, silencing our right to free speech. It sticks in my craw that daring to state an opinion other than the Left’s combined consensus on an issue means your derriere is grass.

It also distresses me that whenever a conservative/Republican says something that the Left chooses to distort and become hysterical about, folks on our side run to microphones to say, “What so-and-so should have said or really meant to say is…” Why surrender to the Left’s distort-and-become-hysterical tactic?

Why kowtow to the Left/MSM, especially when we know they are wrongly interpreting conservatives’ comments on purpose; publishing distortions, exaggerations and lies about what a particular conservative/Republican said?

The Left/MSM allows Democrats to make off-the-cuff outrageous inflammatory statements insulting millions of Americans. Waters – “The tea party can go straight to hell!” Grayson — “Republicans want you to die quickly.” Schultz – “Republicans want to see you dead.” Carson – “The tea party wants blacks hanging on a tree.” Obama about middle America – “Clinging to their Bibles and guns.” Indicting millions, President Carter said an “overwhelming portion” of the opposition to Obama is because “he is a black man.”

Remember the Democrats’ outrageous lying ad showing a Republican pushing an old lady in a wheelchair over a cliff?

Then, there was the absurd shameful irresponsible Democrat ad warning blacks that if they do not vote, they will need to send their kids to school wearing bulletproof vests to protect them from being shot by white police.

Has the MSM demanded that these Democrats apologize/walk back any of their false statements or hate generating ads? No.

Meanwhile, a conservative/Republican has to market test every word that comes out of their mouths, less they suffer the Left’s hysteria/wrath and shoulda-coulda-woulda from fellow conservatives/Republicans. Folks, with the MSM deck so stacked against us, standing up to the Left is extremely challenging. I just wish our side was more forgiving and supportive of our fighters.

Name me one occasion in which a conservative/Republican walking back a statement caused the Left/MSM to forgive him or her. Never. To the Left, an apology is blood in the water, causing a media feeding frenzy to devour a conservative or Republican. Every time one sheepishly apologizes, it is another notch on the Left’s gun barrel; letting the world know they are in charge.

This is what makes Trump’s defiance so remarkable and exhilarating. Thus far Trump has not fallen for the Left’s tactic and become terrorized into walking back his comments. As a matter of fact, Trump routinely doubles down on his original statements. Sorry folks, but I love it. There’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Donald Trump.

Another trick of the Left/MSM is to claim that their hysterical reactions reflect the feelings of a majority of the American people. However, Trump’s addressing illegal immigration shot him to the top of the polls.

Some say Trump is muddying the waters for “serious GOP candidates.” I am not going to argue either way regarding that point. I will say that it is about time someone stood up to these vipers (Leftist media).

A recent incident bears witness to how far PC and Leftist bullying has gotten out of hand; infecting the Democratic party base. Democrat presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was speaking at a Democrat Netroots conference. He was interrupted by protesters screaming about “black lives matter”. The protesters demanded that O’Malley repeat their mantra. Allowing the protesters to hijack the meeting, O’Malley said black lives matter. But when O’Malley added white lives and all lives matter, the audience exploded in outrage, erupting with boos and curse words.

Now, here is the kicker folks, Democrat presidential candidate Martin O’Malley actually apologized for saying white lives and all lives matter. That is crazy and speaks volumes.

Am I grateful for what Donald Trump has done? You betcha!