Black American activists have long been targeted disproportionately by the federal government and a new report by a coalition of Black activist groups presents more evidence of structural racism used against movements that support Black life.
Black Lives Matter protesters, for example, were targeted in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd with heavy-handed criminal prosecutions used to disrupt the movement, according to a new report released by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL).
The report, entitled “Struggle For Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement By The U.S. Government,” examines how policing has been used historically as a tool to stop Black people from protesting and drawing attention to issues affecting them, AP News reported. And because of this, M4BL says reparations must be paid to Black Americans.
“We demand reparations for past and continuing harms,” the M4BL website states. “The government, responsible corporations and other institutions that have profited off of the harm they have inflicted on Black people — from colonialism to slavery through food and housing redlining, mass incarceration, and surveillance — must repair the harm done.”
M4BL is a coalition of more than 50 groups representing the interests of Black communities nationwide. Members include the Black Lives Matter Network, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
The prosecution of protesters over the past year continues a long history of federal government efforts to suppress Black social movements through surveillance and other tactics. This, M4BL leaders said, is structural racism.
“The empirical data and findings in this report largely corroborate what Black organizers have long known intellectually, intuitively, and from lived experience about the federal government’s disparate policing and prosecution of racial justice protests and related activity,” the report stated.
“We want to really show how the U.S. government has continued to persecute the Black movement by surveillance, by criminalizing protests, and by using the criminal legal system to prevent people from protesting and punishing them for being engaged in protests by attempting to curtail their First Amendment rights,” said Dr. Amara Enyia, policy and research coordinator for M4BL.
“It is undeniable that racism plays a role,” Enyia said. “It is structurally built into the fabric of this country and its institutions, which is why it’s been so difficult to eradicate. It’s based on institutions that were designed around racism and around the devaluing of Black people and the devaluing of Black lives.”
M4BL recently tweeted, “In the fight for Black self-determination, power, & freedom in the US, one institution’s relentless determination to destroy Black movement is unrivaled—the United States federal government.” It posted a link to the report.
The Twitter thread continued, “‘Struggle for Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement by the U.S. Government’ details how the federal government targeted those who supported the movement to defend Black lives during the summer 2020 uprisings, in a failed attempt to disrupt & defeat organizing.”
The report was published in partnership with the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility clinic at the City University of New York School of Law.
“The known proportion of Black defendants compared to the proportion of Black people in the United States, per the latest census data, indicates that Black defendants were dramatically overrepresented,” the report stated.
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