Who Is Black Lives Matter?
” Black Lives Matter” is more popular than either President Trump or Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to recent polling. The online research firm Civiqs found in June that voters approved of the movement by a 28-point margin. Rasmussen found 62% of likely voters viewed it favorably and 32% very favorably.
This demonstrates that there is a national consensus that the lives of black fellow citizens matter, which has not always been the case in our history. It also suggests strong support for better, fairer policing in minority communities. But that seems far more likely to be because large majorities believe in the principle of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal rather than because they support the agenda of the organization with the innocuous-sounding name, Black Lives Matter.
Fact is, “black lives matter” is a matter of common decency entirely separate from the activist, ideological, left-wing agenda of the BLM group. That organization has stated aims that go far beyond addressing police brutality. Its goals include, without apology, the upending of American society. Yet it has gained massively more attention, support, and money since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody. It is therefore important that the public, much of which thinks that by supporting BLM, they are backing obviously decent and humane reforms, knows enough to make the distinction between the idea and the ideologues hijacking it.
The co-founders of Black Lives Matter are avowed Marxists. At least one names a convicted cop killer among her heroes. A key mentor in building and shaping the group is a two-time vice presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA. The national organization is financially supported through a leftist group whose board of directors includes a convicted terrorist. A 2017 report from Black Lives Matter describes its founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, and Opal Tometi, as “three radical Black organizers.” The women espouse Marxism and openly push radical identity politics.
Susan Rosenberg was listed as vice chair of the board of directors for Thousand Currents, BLM’s financial sponsor, until the website was pulled down in late June. She had been a member of a radical leftist revolutionary militant group known as the May 19th Communist Organization, which was affiliated with the Weather Underground terrorist group and the radical Black Liberation Army. She was convicted on weapons and explosives charges and sentenced to 58 years in prison, serving 16 years behind bars before being pardoned by President Bill Clinton at the end of his second term in January 2001.
Rosenberg was a radical in the 1960s and 1970s who landed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for a number of crimes. She was caught in 1984 while unloading hundreds of pounds of dynamite and weapons, including a submachine gun, from her car at a New Jersey storage facility. She was believed to have been part of politically motivated bombing plots. Rosenberg and her associates were also charged with bombings during the 1980s that detonated at the Capitol and the Navy War College, among other targets. They were tied to a 1981 Brink’s armored car robbery in which a guard and two police officers were killed. She wrote an autobiography in 2011 titled An American Radical: Political Prisoner in My Own Country about her own radical escapades.
Garza has repeatedly talked about how convicted cop killer and wanted domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, is one of her main inspirations. Rosenberg was suspected of helping Shakur escape from prison after murdering a police officer.
Garza wrote an article for Feminist Wire in 2014 claiming that “hetero-patriarchy and anti-Black racism within our movement is real and felt” and explaining that “when I use Assata’s powerful demand in my organizing work, I always begin by sharing where it comes from, sharing about Assata’s significance to the Black Liberation Movement, what its political purpose and message is, and why it’s important in our context.” Garza has repeatedly tweeted approvingly about Shakur.
Shakur is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $1,000,000 reward for information directly leading to her apprehension. She is believed to be hiding in Cuba. Shakur, a member of the revolutionary extremist group the Black Liberation Army, is wanted for escaping from prison in New Jersey in 1979 while serving a life sentence for murdering a police officer. In 1973, Shakur and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two state troopers. She was wanted at the time for her role in a number of serious crimes, including bank robbery. When pulled over, Shakur and her comrades opened fire on the officers, wounding one trooper and killing Werner Foerster execution-style at point-blank range.
The BLM website is operated under an umbrella group known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, chaired by Cullors, who said she and Garza are “trained organizers” and “trained Marxists” during a 2015 interview with the Real News Network, noting: “We actually do have an ideological frame. … We are super versed on, sort of, ideological theories, and I think what we really try to do is build a movement that could be utilized by many, many black folk.”
Black Lives Matter states that it was founded in 2013 in response to George Zimmerman being acquitted of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman argued he’d acted in self-defense. President Barack Obama’s Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder found “insufficient evidence” to pursue any federal civil rights charges.
Cullors’s memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, includes a foreword written by Angela Davis and an opening epigraph from Shakur. In the book, Cullors writes that “we do this work today because on another day work was done by Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, [transgender activist] Miss Major, the Black Panther Party,” and others. In describing her move toward activism, Cullors wrote, “I read, I study, adding Mao, Marx, and Lenin to my knowledge of hooks.”
Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of his own people, including 45 million or more during the Great Leap Forward, and millions more during the Cultural Revolution. Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet Union, presided over the Red Terror, which killed many tens of thousands as he launched one of the most repressive regimes in history.
Cullors told Teen Vogue in 2019 that “Angela Davis is a mentor of mine.” The duo have coordinated on BLM’s strategies, and they appeared together at a “TimesTalks” event put on by the New York Times in 2018. During that discussion, Cullors called the poverty she grew up in a “setup” imposed upon her by a capitalist society and remarked: “If this is a setup, then I can set it up differently.” Davis, seen as a hero and mentor to the BLM co-founders, is another Marxist and was the Communist Party vice presidential nominee in 1980 and 1984. She was a leading apologist for the Soviet Union during the Cold War, even praising the East German and Soviet tyrannies while in East Berlin. Davis was the winner of the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize and repeatedly praised the USSR’s October 1917 Revolution.
In the United States, Davis was affiliated with the Black Panther Party and connected to violent, murderous radicals. Firearms registered to her were used in the takeover of a California courtroom in 1970 where four people were killed. Davis detests Israel and has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism for decades. She has been a fervent supporter of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement waging economic warfare against the state of Israel in recent years. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote in his 1991 book Chutzpah that he’d asked Davis if she’d be willing to speak up on behalf of Jewish prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union when she went to Moscow to receive a prize and claims she told him that “they are all Zionist fascists and opponents of socialism” and would urge that they be kept in prison. But she has pushed for “political prisoner” Marwan Barghouti to be released from an Israeli prison. Barghouti, one of the leaders of the First and Second Intifada and a founder of the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, was convicted on 21 counts of murder for attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists.
Davis recently endorsed Biden on Moscow’s state-owned Russia Today.
Garza and Davis appeared on Democracy Now! in 2017, with Garza effusive in her praise of Davis and repeatedly thanking her for helping guide the BLM leaders.
“I have to say, Angela, one of the things I appreciate so much about you is that you’re not waxing poetic about things that happened; you’re still very much in relationship to all of us and still teaching us,” Garza said. “Thank you for being a constant presence for us. You are always 100% available and paying attention, and it means a lot to all of us. … You are one of my greatest teachers.”
Garza explained how thoroughly she’d been shaped by Davis’s radical ideology: “I have a bookshelf full of your writings. And there’s something very special and powerful about what you have offered to all of us — this unapologetic way of making sure that we understand how intricately connected race and class and gender is, and then pushing that up against the state and the state apparatus and having us understand how we need to fight that with the relationship between race and class and gender in shaping our strategies and our movements is unmatched, so I want to thank you for that. … Thank you for shaping not just our ideas, but the fights that we have on the ground.”
Garza spoke at a leftist Net Impact Conference in 2016, where she made it clear that BLM was a wider agenda than police brutality, also pointing to the wage gap, climate change, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Reservation, and much more, arguing that at the root of these alleged problems was the capitalist system.
The closely affiliated Movement for Black Lives claimed in 2016 that Israel was an “apartheid state” committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people. Cullors has repeatedly talked about the importance of “solidarity” with Palestine, leading a “delegation” to Palestine. Cullors was one of the signatories of 2015’s Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine, a thoroughly anti-Israel screed that stated in part: “Out of the terror directed against us — from numerous attacks on Black life to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza and chokehold on the West Bank — strengthened resilience and joint-struggle have emerged between our movements.” The statement also said that the signatories “reject Israel’s framing of itself as a victim” and, hand-waving away the countless terrorist attacks and thousands of rocket bombardments against Israel, falsely claimed that “anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter.”
In the wake of Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests, Black Lives Matter quickly set up a petition on its website to #DefundThePolice.
“We call for an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken,” Black Lives Matter said. “We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.”
The Black Lives Matter website explains this proposal with a July post declaring: “We know that police don’t keep us safe — and as long as we continue to pump money into our corrupt criminal justice system at the expense of housing, health, and education investments — we will never be truly safe. That’s why we are calling to #DefundPolice and #InvestInCommunities.”
The group argued that “George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point — an all too familiar reminder that, for Black people, law enforcement doesn’t protect or save our lives. They often threaten and take them.”
BLM is clear about its opposition to President Trump and Republicans. A letter from BLM’s organizing director Nikita Mitchell has lamented that “we face blatant anti-Blackness, capitalist values, and imperial projects,” and she decried “a rise of conservatism that has resulted in a fascist president.”
BLM says that it is looking to influence November’s election, arguing that “Black voters tipped the balance in the 2018 midterm elections” and that “moving towards 2020, we seek to increase the power of our voices and votes.” The group recently launched a “#WhatMatters2020” campaign “aimed to maximize the impact of the BLM movement by galvanizing BLM supporters and allies to the polls in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.” The campaign says that it is focused on “racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, Black immigration, economic injustice, LGBTQIA+ and human rights, environmental conditions, voting rights and suppression, healthcare, government corruption, education, and commonsense gun laws.”
Beyond their Black Lives Matter work, Cullors calls herself the “self-described wife of Harriet Tubman” and works on radical Los Angeles jail reform, while Tometi also spent years as executive director of the leftist Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Garza, Cullors, and Tometi were named three of Time Magazine’s 100 Women of the Year for 2013.
Black Lives Matter raises money through the ActBlue donation platform, though claims that this makes it a “shell company” for the Democratic Party are unfounded. Black Lives Matter appears to make up the majority of the donation work that Thousand Currents does, with the 2019 public audit statement for the latter group showing just over $6.4 million in total financial assets, including holding more than $3.3 million in assets for Black Lives Matter as of the end of last June. The audit shows Thousand Currents released nearly $1.8 million in donations to Black Lives Matter during the year ending on June 30, 2019.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has pulled in huge amounts of cash since Floyd’s death, telling the Associated Press that it had received more than 1.1 million individual donations as of mid-June, with each donor giving an average of $33 per donation — meaning the group brought in more than $33 million in less than a month. Donations have continued to roll in since then.
BLM announced funds totaling $12.5 million in recent weeks. It first unveiled a $6.5 million fund to support its grassroots organizing work on June 11, stating in a press release that it was “grateful for the generosity and support of donors” and that the fund would be available to all chapters affiliated with the BLM Global Network Foundation. Beginning July 1, “affiliated chapters may apply for unrestricted grant funding of up to $500,000 in multi-year grants,” the group said, later adding that another $6 million will go to helping black-led grassroots organizers.
“In the upcoming year, we will provide resources to those new to the movement and interested in Black Liberation strategies by developing curriculum,” Cullors said when announcing the new fund. “In this stunning moment in American history, we will honor those lost, and those who have come before us in the fight for Black Liberation.”
Radicals attempting to co-opt otherwise constructive social movements are nothing new. The far Left participated in, and in some cases infiltrated, civil rights groups without discrediting the just and necessary fight against Jim Crow. But the arguments that won the day against segregation were rooted in the best American traditions, not in overthrowing those traditions. Distinguishing Black Lives Matter the group from the growing sentiment in favor of racial justice driving the phrase’s popularity is a necessary first step in repeating that history.
Jerry Dunleavy is a Justice Department reporter for the Washington Examiner .