Not a month goes by without Black Lives Matter dubbing another Black American a martyr of the fight for Black equality. This month, their martyrs are Sylville K. Smith and Korryn Gaines: two armed, long-time criminals who resisted arrest. Smith, a man with a lengthy rap sheet, was pulled over at a traffic stop and fled his car while armed with a stolen gun in an area with poor police-civilian relations. Gaines was fatally shot two weeks ago after threatening to kill police officers who arrived at her house with a warrant for her arrest. Gaines pointed a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun at the responding officers who did not shoot her initially. Using her gun and her five-year old son as a human meat-shield, she presented enough of a threat to the police that a SWAT team was deployed to her house and ultimately shot and killed her.
Black social media, The Huffington Post, and other Leftist, Afrocentric news sources have spun these stories as evidence of White supremacy and “systemic racism.” Violent protests erupted Saturday night in Milwaukee, Smith’s hometown. The protesters destroyed businesses and targeted White people for beatings while chanting Black Lives Matter slogans. Black Lives Matter and its supporters have decided that any African-American shot by a cop or a White civilian—regardless of circumstance or just cause—is a martyr. Almost all of these “martyrs” have been just like Smith and Gaines: violent criminals who threatened an officer’s life.
Here are the unadulterated stories of BLM’s other heroes:
- Bruce Kelley Jr., a man with a lengthy rap sheet, was drinking publicly with his father in a busway gazebo. When approached by police officers with a ticket for drinking in public, Kelley Jr. began to walk away and then, after being told to stop, rushed the officers. Attempts to tase Kelley Jr. failed because of his heavy coat. A K-9 unit then pursued Kelley Jr., who stabbed the dog as it grasped his arm. He was then shot and killed by a pursuing sergeant.
- Meagan Hockaday, a domestically-abusive mother and the fiancée of the 911 caller, was shot after charging at the responding officer with a knife less than twenty seconds after he arrived at her apartment.
- Charley Leundeu Keunang, a homeless, mentally-ill, illegal Cameroonian immigrant, threatened a 911 caller reporting a nearby robbery as soon as responding officers arrived. After ignoring commands and being increasingly aggressive—at one point, even reaching for an officer’s gun—Keunang fought with police and was shot and killed.
- Ezell Ford, a mentally-ill man pursued by two police officers for erratic behavior, attacked an officer approaching him and attempted to reach for the officer’s gun while being subdued. The other officer shot Ford out of fear for his partner’s life.
- Michael Brown, a young man who had just stolen cigarillos from a local store and threatened the store’s owner, was stopped by a responding officer who noticed that he and his friend fit the description of the suspect of the robbery. Brown rushed the officer, fighting for the officer’s gun, and was fatally shot.
- Jonathan Ferrell, a man who crashed his car while drunk-driving, banged on the door of a stranger’s house. The homeowner called the police, and when they arrived, Ferrell charged at them. First, they used a taser to subdue him, but because it missed, the officers resorted to shooting him.
Those mentioned above had charged at the responding officers. Rushing police officers after their repeated attempts to subdue a subject with words, pepper spray, or a taser is a clear threat to their lives. In a news segment on Black Lives Matter protests, a Black Lives Matter activist himself underwent use-of-force training at a police academy. After he “shot” the subject in question in various scenarios, the activist explained that he “didn’t understand how important compliance was” and that his attitude on use of force had changed. Regarding compliance, the following Black Lives Matter martyrs either disregarded a police officer’s orders, resisted arrest and failed to submit to lawful commands, or fled from the scene of the crime or traffic stop.
- Alton Sterling, a man previously convicted of violent offenses which left him unable to legally obtain, own, or carry a firearm, was the subject of a 911 call in which a homeless person reported that a man selling CDs had threatened him with a handgun. Sterling’s possession of the firearm and his non-compliance after repeated attempts by police to suppress him through various non-lethal means led to his death.
- Jamar Clark, a man previously convicted of first-degree aggravated assault and awaiting trial for a high-speed chase arrest, was breaking up a fight between the host of a party and his ex-girlfriend who had obtained a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order against him. Clark pulled his ex-girlfriend away from prying eyes and battered her, prompting an onlooker to call for paramedics. Not only did Clark try to interfere with his ex-girlfriend being escorted to the ambulance, he attacked the police officer who tried to hold him back—which ultimately resulted in his death.
- Freddie Gray, a man with many arrests and citations on his rap sheet, five of which were then active warrants, fled from police in a high-crime area in possession of an illegal switchblade. He sustained fatal injuries after a rough ride in the back of a Baltimore Police Department van, during which he was cuffed but not wearing a seatbelt.
- Eric Courtney Harris was fatally shot by a reserve sheriff’s deputy while running from a sting operation to arrest him for drug- and arms-dealing. The deputy claimed that he had confused his taser for his gun.
- Jeramie Reid, pulled over after running through a stop sign, moved around the car against the orders of the police officer after disclosing he had a gun in the glove compartment. After the officer retrieved the gun, Reid attempted to exit the vehicle without the prior instruction of the officer, but the officer kept the door closed, wary that Reid may have had a second weapon on him in the car. Again, without prior instruction, Reid attempted to exit the vehicle—this time after the officer had moved back—and as Reid exited the car, he was shot.
- Tamir Rice, a young boy playing with an Airsoft pistol with the orange safety tip removed, pointed his toy gun at passersby and the police when they arrived. Not knowing it was fake, the police shot Rice.
- Eric Garner, a man selling loose cigarettes without tax stamps, resisted arrest until the responding officer took him down and put him in a submission hold until he passed out. Garner was obese, and had asthma and heart disease, which contributed to his death.
Of those listed above, each of whom was shot by a White police officer—a demographic around which Black Lives Matter constructed much of their central narrative—the only cases in which the officers were not charged were those of Brown, Rice, Clark, Kelley Jr., and Sterling—all of whom were killed justifiably without evidence of misconduct. In the cases of Harris and Gray, the White officers were respectively charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree depraved-heart murder along with involuntary manslaughter.
While the majority of Black Lives Matter’s heroes were justly killed, there are some examples of clear-cut police misconduct. Yet, in each of these following instances—except in the case of Boyd’s shooter who was found not guilty due to an atypical directed verdict—each officer was placed on leave pending investigation, fired, sentenced to up to fifteen years in jail, and fired, respectively. Bland’s suicide would have been noticed sooner had the police either properly conducted their hourly rounds or put her on suicide watch; given her multiple past suicide attempts, it would have been protocol to check on her every fifteen minutes. Their failure to do so was indeed a policy violation, but there is no evidence that systemic racism is to blame for her death; both the state trooper and sheriff involved were fired.
- Philando Castile, a man pulled over in a traffic stop, was killed by an officer after disclosing he was legally armed, and then moving his hands as one officer told him not to move while the other officer had told him to show his license and registration.
- Corey Jones was killed by a plainclothes officer while waiting by his car after it had broken down. While doing burglary surveillance, the officer claimed that he was confronted by an armed subject—evidently Jones—but he gunned down Jones without probable cause.
- Akai Gurley, a resident of one of the most dangerous housing developments in New York City, was accidentally shot by a rookie officer while patrolling his building.
- Rekia Boyd, a young woman out with her friends, was shot at a distance by an off-duty detective who claims Boyd’s boyfriend’s cell phone appeared to be a gun.
- Sandra Bland, an avid Black Lives Matter supporter with a history of suicide attempts and a lengthy rap sheet of misdemeanors, was found dead in her jail cell after she hanged herself with a bed sheet. She had been pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, but was ultimately arrested after assaulting an officer and resisting arrest at the traffic stop.
The following were all killed by civilians, so to use their deaths as evidence of racism in police conduct is nonsensical. McBride’s death, in particular, was likely avoidable and unnecessary, and a jury agreed with this sentiment, sentencing her shooter to seventeen to thirty-two years in prison. This punishment goes against the Black Lives Matter narrative that the justice system perpetuates systemic racism and fails to punish oppressors.
- Renisha McBride, a young woman who drunkenly crashed her car in the middle of the night, banged on the door of a stranger’s house looking for help. The resident of the home thought McBride was breaking in and shot her with his shotgun.
- Jordan Davis, a high schooler who started a verbal altercation with a civilian after refusing to turn down his music, reportedly pulled out a shotgun and was then shot by the person with whom he was arguing.
- Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, hoodie-clad high schooler pursued by the community’s watchman through his gated community, attacked him after being provoked. After a violent struggle between the two, the Hispanic watchman—who claimed to be in fear for his life—stood his ground and shot Martin.
BLM celebrated each and every person here as a martyr, as if each individual contributed meaningfully to Black America and our fight for equality. But instead, we find that almost all of Black Lives Matter’s martyrs were mentally ill, prior criminals, the subject of a 911 call reporting a criminal act, or pursued by police for doing something illegal. These are not role models for our community. By glorifying the deaths of Black people who were killed under justifiable circumstances and failed to comply with lawful orders from police officers, Black Lives Matter is damaging the credibility of its argument against police brutality and doing a disservice to those seeking justice for actually unjust killings by police.
Black Lives Matter would have a much more compelling case if they were willing to concede that shootings by police can be—and often are—justified. Refocusing on issues at specific police departments—such as poor training (notably in the cases of Gurley and Harris) and bias due to the statistically disproportionate amount of crime committed by Black Americans—would give them more legitimacy and have more of an impact on the national discourse on crime, policing, and police brutality.
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