Blue Lives Matter, a group of active and retired law enforcement officials, issued a statement on Monday demanding all Americans boycott Ben & Jerry’s after the ice cream maker announced its public support of Black Lives Matter last week.
“Ben & Jerry’s went beyond making a statement in support of civil rights when they actively accused law enforcement of widespread racism,” Blue Lives Matter wrote. “By spreading these false and misleading statements, Ben & Jerry’s lends an appearance of legitimacy to the baseless claims that police officers are killing men based on the color of their skin. This message has inspired the assassination and attempted assassination of police officers, and it costs officers their lives.”
In its announcement in support of Black Lives Matter, Ben & Jerry’s provided a seven-point list on how systemic racism is real, from housing segregation and the racial wealth gap to the criminal justice system. It said the announcement was inspired by the footage of police killings of African Americans, most recently in Charlotte, North Carolina. While the creators said they “respect and value the commitment to our communities that those in law enforcement make” and “do not place the blame for this on individual officers,” they note that the criminal justice system isn’t fair to all.
Meanwhile, threats of a Blue Lives Matter–led boycott perpetuates the idea that critiquing police brutality is anti-police, and that the movement for black lives is to blame for attacks on police.
Black Lives Matter does not revolve around police officers
One of the most common critiques of the movement for black lives is that it is “anti-cop” — even though the movement was never defined in opposition to police.
It’s true that Black Lives Matter became a national rallying cry following the extrajudicial killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. It’s also true that a parallel Blue Lives Matter movement was sparked at the same time by critics who felt that the focus on disproportionate police brutality against black people denied that "blue lives," or police lives, matter too.
But the movement actually began a year earlier, on July 13, 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. Activist Alicia Garza mourned with a simple Facebook post at 7:14 pm: #BlackLivesMatter. She would go on to be one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter organization.
The term Black Lives Matter was in response to a moment in which not even the criminal justice system seemed to value a black child’s life. Yet the movement and phrase were created to address the broader spectrum of issues that systemically fail to affirm black people’s lives and dignity in society. Brown’s death, and the momentum generated around it, highlighted that police brutality is an aspect that can’t be ignored.
The movement for black lives wants law enforcement held accountable for killing people
Though some label them “anti-cop,” most activists in the movement for black lives are demanding one thing from police officers: accountability.
Law enforcement is tasked with serving and protecting communities equally. Like activists in the movement for black lives, Ben & Jerry’s noted that the extrajudicial killings of black people shows how many black communities are simultaneously underpoliced and overpoliced.
“We respect and value the commitment to our communities that those in law enforcement make, and we respect the value of every one of their lives,” Ben & Jerry’s wrote. “But we do believe that — whether Black, brown, white, or blue — our nation and our very way of life is dependent on the principle of all people being served equal justice under the law. And it’s clear, the effects of the criminal justice system are not color blind.”
At least 2,195 people have been killed by police since Brown’s death two years ago. A disproportionately high percentage of those killed were black — and some were doing absolutely nothing wrong. Despite the high frequency with which officer-involved killings take place, police are rarely indicted for killing civilians, even as more video evidence of those killings becomes available.
And while Blue Lives Matter may be alluding to high-profile shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the tail end of a protest against a string of extrajudicial police killings of black people, these kinds of shootings are rare. The respective shooters acted alone. And leaders in the movement for black lives condemned the shootings explicitly as counter to the goals of the movement.
Indeed, law enforcement and activists in the movement for black lives agree that it is wrong to kill police officers. By contrast, police officers spend more time closing ranks when extrajudicial shootings of African Americans take place than condemning them and the officers responsible accordingly.
“All lives do matter,” Ben & Jerry’s wrote. “But all lives will not matter until Black lives matter.”