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Submitted by on Aug 11, 2020

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized movement advocating non-violent civil disobedience to protest police brutality and any racially motivated violence against black people. While Black Lives Matter can be understood primarily as a decentralized social movement, the organization known simply as Black Lives Matter exists as a decentralized network with roughly 16 chapters in the United States and Canada. The wider movement and its affiliates generally advocate police violence against black people, as well as various other policy changes that are considered black liberation.

In July 2013, the movement began using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media following George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier, in February 2012. The movement became a nationally recognized street demonstration following the deaths of two African Americans in 2014: Michael Brown in riots and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a city near St. Louis, and Eric Garner in New York. In the aftermath of the Ferguson protests, members of the movement spoke out against the deaths of scores of other African Americans as a result of police action or in police custody. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter activists ran in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Hashtag and call to action proponents Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi have expanded their project into a national network of more than 30 local chapters between 2014 to 2016. The entire Black Lives Matter movement is a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy.

The movement made a return to national news headlines and gained additional international attention during the global protests of George Floyd in 2020 following George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. An estimated 15 to 26 million people took part (although not all are “members” of the organization) in the Black Lives Matter 2020 protests in the US, making Black Lives Matter one of the largest movements in US history. The movement advocates freeing the police and investing directly in black communities and for alternative models of emergency response.

The popularity of Black Lives Matter changes rapidly over time. While public opinion on Black Lives Matter was net negative in 2018, it has become increasingly popular in 2019 and 2020. A June 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans from every racial and ethnic group expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

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