Black Lives Matter

By Helen Ogundeji

In a society where white bodies are prioritized and those of any other variation are marginalized, violence and exploitation are commonplace. Black Lives Matter is a campaign that emerged in the summer of 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. This group seeks justice for the victims and families affected by police brutality and excessive force by law enforcement (whether it be through physical harm or unequal distribution of legal penalties), as well as to create a “network of organizations advocating to form a national policy specifically aimed at redressing the systemic pattern of anti-Black law enforcement violence in the US.”

Following the recent grand jury decision to not indict police of cer Darren Wilson for the murder of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter has generated a notable following not only in the United States, but also throughout North America and beyond.

Here in Montréal, a similar situation unfolded when Alain Magloire, a Black man holding a hammer, was confronted by police and subsequently gunned down in February of 2014. Known by police, Magloire had stayed for a month at Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission, an organization that helps people living on the street. Magloire’s killing has since been attributed to his mental illness. However the question remains as to why the confrontation was not handled less violently.

Nowhere near the first instance of police brutality in Montréal, Alain Magloire’s case reinvigorated the discussion, and reminded Montréalers of a similar event almost 30 years earlier. In 1987, tensions between the Black community and police were at an all time high. On the morning of November 11, 1987, nineteen-year-old Anthony Grif n was shot and killed by a member of the Montréal police force after running to escape police detention. Just as he was turning himself around in surrender, at the instruction of Constable Allan Gosset, Gosset red and killed Grif n. While the nineteen-year-old’s killing sparked a wider discussion on the use of handguns by police (including an ultimately successful plea to replace .38 police revolvers to .357’s), unnecessary use of force involving any form of police violence remains a huge issue.

Similarly, in October 2007, 39-year-old Quilem Registre was zapped several times with a Taser stun gun by a police of cer, and died in hospital four days after the incident. Upon further investigation, the coroner concluded that
the police may have been able to subdue Registre without use of the Taser, reiterating the concerns of Black rights activists throughout the city. Why is inflicting violence on Black bodies an officer’s instinct when called to a scene involving us? It is obvious that more sensitive measures need to be taken. However, this remains under the heading of ‘do better next time’ after Black lives have already been robbed.

Black Lives Matter serves as an incredibly important cause, especially to younger generations of Black bodies. Calling on the mobilization of youth, Black Lives Matter stresses the importance of solidarity and utilizes these all too silenced voices to loudly, passionately, and unapologetically denounce the forces that seek to oppress our spirits.

In a society where white biker gangs freely murder, only to be offered water and phone service by police, where a white domestic terrorist can target 11 and gun down nine church members in the midst of bible study, only to be apprehended non-violently and provided a bulletproof vest, where a white woman can live her adult life in blackface and steal countless opportunities from deserving Black people, where men are killed for walking while Black, where children assaulted for having a pool party while Black–the need for this transformative organization cannot be more clear.