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Public opinion is beginning to divide around the Black Lives Matter Movement. Source: AP.
Public opinion is beginning to divide around the Black Lives Matter Movement. Source: AP.

Support for Black Lives Matter falls as protests continue across the country

A Civiqs national survey shows that BLM was at an all time high after George Floyd’s death, but opposition increases with protests. 

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The Black Lives Matter organization has drawn conflicting sentiment from the public in its seven-year history. 

It formed in 2013, following the acquittal of the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African-American from Florida. 

Their goals are centered around bringing more awareness to systemic injustices that Black people face across the globe. In the U.S., they have gained prominence for their mass protests in response to acts of police brutality. 

The movement rallied in Ferguson, Missouri for nearly a month after a white officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown. This resulted in several clashes with law enforcement and supportive peaceful demonstrations in major U.S. cities. 

One of the head organizers of the rallies in Ferguson was Cori Bush, a nurse who has since ran for Congress twice. In 2020, she successfully defeated 10-term incumbent Lacey Clay in the Democratic primary for Missouri’s first congressional district. 

In both of her elections she was supported by Justice Democrats, a political action committee that formed in 2017 to continue championing the policies from Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run. 

This is part of the reason as to why the movement doesn’t have much national support. 

Republicans have made an effort to tie Black Lives Matter to the far-left and this limits the reach of the organization. 

The McCloskey couple got the opportunity to speak at the Republican National Convention last week. They were famous for directing their firearms at BLM protestors outside their home in Missouri in June. 

Mark McCloskey labeled Bush as a “Marxist” in his address and that her victory signals a rise of the radical left. 

Activists are also accused of using race to forward a progressive agenda and this in part spawns counternarratives like the slogan “All Lives Matter.” 

In a piece published in The Conversation The Director of U.S. Studies at the University of Sydney, David Smith, explained how the terms “All Lives Matter” and “I don’t see color” are uses of egalitarian rhetoric that serve oppressive ends. 

“‘All Lives Matter’ erases a long past and present of systemic inequality in the US. It represents a refusal to acknowledge that the state does not value all lives in the same way. It reduces the problem of racism to individual prejudice and casts African-Americans as aggressors against a colourblind post-civil rights order in which White people no longer ‘see race,’” he said.  

President Donald Trump is fervently opposed to some of their major policy goals like abolishing private prisons and defunding the police. 

The Brennan Center for Justice found that the Trump presidency has been very profitable for the private prison industry. 

After former Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked an Obama era initiative to phase out private prisons thousands of inmates were being detained for longer to drive up profits for the industry and the federal government has negotiated contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for private prison companies to construct new migrant detention facilities across the country. 

The organization has attracted criticism from the left in passing years for disrupting the rallies of other causes that are ideological allies of the group. 

In August 2015 several BLM activists took over a stage in the middle of a Sanders campaign event in Seattle. The Senator gave them the stage and never retook the microphone, canceling the rest of the planned event.

Less than a year later, the group halted the Toronto Pride Parade, Canada’s largest pride celebration, although they had been invited as an honorary guest to the event. 

The death of George Floyd made national support for the movement increase to an unprecedented peak of 53% with 28% opposing them in June. 

In the days following the RNC a Civiqs survey showed that support fell by four points, but opposition went up by 10 points. 

FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver has suggested that the approval of BLM is mainly assisted by how frequently they are mentioned by the president and that the recent dip in support is because Trump has stopped using their name. 

“Some of the popularity boost for BLM in June may have reflected a reaction against Trump / negative partisanship. Voters give Trump TERRIBLE marks for his handling of race relations and people may flock to the opposite position of whatever he says on these issues,” he wrote on Twitter.

Earlier in the summer president Trump referred to Black Lives Matter being painted in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City as a “symbol of hate.” 

In an interview, he refused to condemn the Confederate Flag and said that it, like BLM, are both matters of “freedom of speech.” 

Trump and other speakers at the RNC used their apparatus to cautiously avoid the term Black Lives Matter and instead attacked the violence caused by protesters in large Democrat-run cities. 

This allows the GOP to build opposition for the movement without recognizing them by pivoting all of the blame for the ongoing conflict in America onto the Democrats and the far-left, but they have already tied BLM to the left. 

Solely attacking the goals of the movement is another way to indirectly tank support for BLM.

Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida gave an example using both tactics in his address to the convention. 

“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the police aren’t coming when you call in Democrat-run cities, they’re already being defunded, disbanded,” Gaetz said. 

The convention also made an effort to give notable speaking time to several Black politicians like Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. 

Ahead of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s trip to Pittsburgh, PA on Monday, he was in a tough place as he could not come out in favor of the riots, but advocating for law and order would have seemed like he was trying to outdo Trump. 

Former vice president ended up changing the narrative by abandoning the notion that the large protests were happening in liberal cities and instead blamed “Trump’s America” while condemning all non-peaceful demonstrations. 

“Trump and Pence are running on this and I find it fascinating ‘You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America’ And what’s their proof? The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America,” said Biden.

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