Since the emergence of the Movement for Black Lives in 2014, there have been constant attacks on those speaking out with attempts to delegitimize the countless experiences that Black people have when it comes to state-sanctioned violence. These coordinated efforts deflect from the work needed to make Black lives matter in this country. One way we’ve seen this happen is through so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bills/laws, or more appropriately the “Bluest Lie” that is being told across the country.
At this very moment, three bills are before the Michigan State Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote. HB 4585 and 4590 will ascribe federal penalties to those who have committed a crime against someone who is or is perceived to be emergency personnel, including police officers, on or off duty. HB 4591 allows up to three years of prison time to be added to the sentences of those found guilty of these charges.
Blue Lives Matter legislation is not new
The first proposals popped up in early 2016 coincidentally after the mass mobilizations of Black folks in light of the murders of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland. And even more began to arise after the increased momentum of the Movement for Black Lives following the murders of Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile. To this day, at least 14 states have active Blue Lives Matter legislation on the books haunting our communities. These policies attempt to put police officers in a protected class, similar to what we see with hate crimes against members of historically marginalized groups based on race, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
As a response to folks taking to the streets, mobilizing communities, and conveying a vision for what safety looks like for us – elected officials have pushed even more protections for the uniform and aggression against us; The same police uniform that many Black people see on folks who are harassing, assaulting, and even worse, killing them; The uniforms worn by police officers who killed 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones and those who beat Floyd Dent nearly to death.
BYP100 began fighting back against Blue Lives Matter policies in 2016. We mobilized against them in Louisiana, we defeated them in Chicago, and now we see them in Michigan. The enactment of a Blue Lives Matter Bill punishes those who speak out against injustices by the police, infringes on our 1st amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and funnels more Black folks into the criminal (in)justice system. This sort of legislation is weaponized against our community to further criminalize and oppress our people and shuttle more and more folks through the prison industrial complex.
This is just the latest attack on the Movement for Black Lives.
Creating a “crisis” through unsubstantiated narratives or insidious interventions is not new for the US Government. In the 1980’s the government strategically introduced narcotics into our communities to destabilize, criminalize, and incarcerate us to fill prisons. These bills are less about safety and more about expanding unjust, punitive forms of punishment.
Activists are already under surveillance and extreme resistance by the police and government officials. A Blue Lives Matter bill would add to the criminalization of activists fighting for Black lives.
The urgency to act against Michigan’s proposed bill is now. The bill impacts our ability as activists and community members to hold police officers accountable through free speech and protest. If you’re in Michigan, call your state senator and tell them to reject these bills (HB 4585, 4590, & 4591). It’s past time for officials to start taking actions for Black Lives and not continue to commit violence against them. Our silence should not be the requirement for our safety.
— co-written by
BYP100 Chicago member, Camesha Jones
Communications Manager, L’lerrét Ailith
National Public Policy Chair, Denzel McCampbell