President Obama did not spend much time on the nationwide protests concerning the killing of unarmed Black men in his State of the Union address Tuesday. But that did not stop the Black Lives Matter movement from taking on Capitol Hill yesterday.
About 50 protesters laid down in the Longworth House Office building, where members of Congress and their staffs work, in a “die-in” for four minutes before security moved them on.
But their point was made: The campaign for changing police conduct will go on, with or without the outward support of the most powerful voices.
Significantly, the protesters were comprised of diverse groups: Muslims, Christians and members of the Jewish faith who had travelled from as far as North Carolina, New York and Massachusetts.
The “die-in” had been planned before Obama’s address Tuesday as a way to “keep pressure up” on Congress to introduce legislation to reform racial profiling by law enforcement agencies and limit the transfer of military equipment to police, organizer Stocsh Cotler, chief executive of Bend the Arc, a national Jewish social justice group, told the Guardian.
“As people of faith, we are calling on Congress to take action on racial justice and heed the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Cotler said. “This is a moral and ethical choice. This is not just politics. The demands of this movement are concrete and realistic. Congress can and should make them a priority. America is watching what you do and we will not back down.”
Obama’s State of the Union address equated the experiences of a Black parent and a police spouse in a call for unity.
“Surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed? Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift?” the president said.
Part of the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement is crystallized in the fact that only 750 of about 18,000 law enforcement agencies even report police shooting civilian statistics.