Is Blue Lives Matter a Racist Hate Group?
The pro-cop, Trump-linked movement’s main Facebook community is a cesspool of racist rants and violent threats.
By Max Blumenthal / AlterNet
July 20, 2016
The first night of the Republican National Convention featured a parade of alpha-male veterans and tough-talking cops pledging to “make America safe again.” Marcus Lutrell, a highly decorated Navy SEAL accused of fabricating major portions of his tales of heroism and elan, set the tone for the evening. Recalling the action-packed operations he spearheaded in Afghanistan with a mixture of misty eyed nostalgia and vein-popping outrage, Lutrell concluded that “your war is here.” His insinuation of a new war on terror raging in America’s streets, where duty-bound cops are supposedly besieged by radical Black Lives Matter protesters and black nationalist snipers, transitioned smoothly into an appearance by David Clarke, the hardline Milwaukee County Sheriff who has warned that the Black Lives Matter movement would soon join forces with the Islamic State.
Clarke opened with what was perhaps the most successful applause line of the evening: “Ladies and gentleman, I would like to make one thing very clear: Blue lives matter in America!” Clarke brought RNC delegates to their feet again when he celebrated the acquittal of the Baltimore police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, who died after sustaining major injuries during an arrest. When Clarke cast Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement as agents of anarchy hellbent on destroying an otherwise functional social order, the crowd erupted with euphoric applause.
Thanks to Clarke, a national televised audience was introduced for the first time to the movement known as Blue Lives Matter. Organized by police officers, their families and their supporters, Blue Lives Matter was founded to support the legal defense of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri cop placed on trial for killing the unarmed black teen Michael Brown in 2015. Mock civil rights marches have been organized under the banner of Blue Lives Matter, with cops and their families parading through the streets of major American cities and even blocking traffic on occasion.
Meanwhile, Blue Lives Matter legislation has been introduced in statehouses across the country equating cops with historically oppressed minority groups and proposing to protect them under hate crime laws. “The overarching message is that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who became the first elected official to sign such a bill into law.
Invoked on the national stage by culture war icons like Sheriff Clarke, Blue Lives Matter has become an integral component of the Republican base. It is not only a catch-all for opposition to Black Lives Matter and virtually any effort to spur police reform, but also a brand that conveys the racial backlash sensibility cultivated by the Trump campaign. In the past weeks, following a series of videotaped killings of unarmed black men, nationwide protests and two deadly shooting sprees targeting cops, those mobilizing under the banner of Blue Lives Matter have taken a disturbingly militant turn.
On one of the movement’s main online organizing hubs, the Blue Lives Matter Facebook community, calls for the massacre of Black Lives Matter protesters have grown more frequent and pronounced. Cops and their supporters have proposed denying police services to citizens who publicly support Black Lives Matter, posted discredited statistics about race and crime produced by a white nationalist website (and promoted by Donald Trump), and spun out fantasies of an ongoing race war.
On this Facebook page, and under their own names, commenters have called for white Americans to organize as a race against civil rights protests, demanded that police operate exclusively in white neighborhoods, and demonized black victims of lethal police violence as “thugs,” “hoodrats” and worse. Black Lives Matter is regularly described as a terrorist organization working in secret collusion with the Obama administration to wage civil war on cops. With help from a clickbait style blog that churns out daily disinformation—which the fact-checking site Snopes recently exposed for journalistic fraud—the Blue Lives Matter Facebook page has racked up over 1 million likes in a relatively short period of time.
With their violent sensibility and overtly racist tone, members of the Blue Lives Matter online community hardly seem dissimilar from the white nationalists attracted to Stormfront, the hate site the Southern Poverty Law Center has linked to some 100 murders across the country. Unlike Stormfront, however, Blue Lives Matter is able to shroud its extremism behind the badge that commands society-wide veneration.
This July, at least four Americans were arrested for social media postings expressing support for violence against law enforcement personnel. But police officers and their supporters have yet to face consequences for their comments at the Blue Lives Matter Facebook community, where they wish violence on private citizens with regular frequency. Like the cops who are afforded impunity when they kill unarmed citizens, Blue Lives Matter commenters have spouted violent extremism with minimal scrutiny and maximum intensity.
Fantasies of murdered black WNBA players
Scarcely a day passed this month without an event that sent Blue Lives Matter supporters into a frenzy.
On July 11, players from the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team appeared during pre-game warmups in T-shirts emblazoned with a Black Lives Matter logo along with badges honoring the police officers gunned down in Dallas by the fanatical black nationalist Micah Johnson. In true Blue Lives Matter form, five off-duty cops abandoned their security duties at the game and staged a walk-out protest against the shirts. Hours later, the Blue Lives Matter Facebook community exploded in rage at the players.
Blake Urban, a self-described active duty cop at the Tallassee, Alabama police department, described in broken English his wish for police to deny service to the players: “And I hope they all beat each other up and they needed cops and I hope they didn't come.”
“I hope some crazy, black, ex military personnel decides to shoot up the team and nobody responds to save them... fk BLM,” wrote a commenter named Angela Davis.
“Truth is that it is not a Black Lives Matter movement it is a war on police and white people,” David Gonzales Fumero interjected. He added that BLM was “nothing more than a local terrorist organization committing hate crimes.” Fumero’s post earned 400 likes from fellow Blue Lives Matter community members.
In a separate post, a commenter named Lori Silver called not only to deny police services to Black Lives Matter supporters, but to black people across America: “I say take ALL of our officers OUT of all the hoods in our country n put them in ONLY white nbrhoods, then they will be safe. Let the hoodrats kill each other.”
When an Indian-American commenter took issue with the racism that consumes the Blue Lives Matter Facebook threads, a self-identified army veteran named Frank Jakubec launched into a tirade. “Let the Americans run America,” Jakubec ranted. “You people come over here and **** all over the unfortunate people that get stuck working for you.”
Sandwiched between the racist comment threads deluging Blue Lives Matter’s forum every day are ads for a T-shirt supposedly honoring the police officers recently killed in Dallas. The shirt features an image of a sword-bearing Crusader with blue crosses emblazoned on his shield and chest plate. A staple of right-wing iconography intended to convey support for civilizational warfare, the Crusader symbol has been embraced by British neo-fascists and the late Christian Right icon “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle, who had it tattooed on his right arm.
Black heroes for white racists
Though the Blue Lives Matter Facebook community expresses an aggressively racist sensibility, its most ardent members have a few black heroes. Chief among them is Sheriff Clarke, who is African American, but has defended a Confederate monument, called Black Lives Matter “black slime” that “needs to be eradicated from American society,” and said he would have used more force than the Texas cops who roughed up and drew a gun on black teenagers at a pool party.
When Clarke’s angry confrontation with CNN anchor Don Lemon went viral on July 17, the members of the Blue Lives Matter community lit up with joy. Among the most liked comments was one by Scott Downing, who has posted a photo suggesting he works for the Mendota Heights, Minnesota police department. “If Trump wins I say make Sheriff Clarke the next director of the FBI or the DOJ,” Downing proclaimed. “We need leaders who talk the truth, who see the truth, who stand up for the truth, and who are not afraid to put the truth forward regardless of its color.”
One of the few other black men to earn the adulation of Blue Lives Matter supporters was a self-described “Trainer Motivational Speaker” named Kevin Martin who took to Facebook to pledge total obedience to violent cops. Claiming he had been pulled over “COUNTLESS times by the police” while packing a “40 Cal Handgun,” Martin boasted that while he has been searched “for HOURS,” he had never been shot like other black motorists. “WHY?” Martin wrote. “Because I made 1 choice and that was to RESPECT THEIR AUTHORITY, and respect their orders… If the REST of america had the SAME AGENDA, this world would be so different.”
Martin’s declaration of unilateral submission before the authorities — and his apparent acceptance of being racially profiled — won a favorable post from Blue Lives Matter and pats on the back from its supporters. One of the few critical comments, by someone who expressed sorrow over Martin’s claims of being constantly pulled over, earned a rebuke from the Blue Lives Matter administrators: “He was stopped for traffic infractions...valid reasons...don't try to spin something positive with such an inflammatory comment.”
Martin immediately attempted to capitalize on the promotion he received from Blue Lives Matter, initiating a pro-police live chat on his Facebook page. “I, as a Black American will tell you why this problem starts directly with us, as black American people,” he promised, “and has very little to do with white America and our Police force.”
Calls for slaughtering Black Lives Matter protesters
This month in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a former Marine and apparent black nationalist named Gavin Long gunned down three cops in apparent retaliation for the videotaped execution-style killing of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers. Back in Long’s hometown of Kansas City, a local reporter knocked on the door of his former home and asked if Long still lived there. When he persisted after being told no, an unidentified man inside the house returned to the door, silently bearing a rifle though not pointing it at the reporter.
Coverage of the minor incident set the Blue Lives Matter Facebook community aflame, with commenters demanding the most bloodthirsty response possible.
“Blow up the house,” urged a commenter named Joseph Brunner. His post earned almost 300 likes and spurred other commenters to issue similarly destructive propositions.
“Government just threaten to take his assistance away and he will run out along with all his family!” wrote Crystal Rands, a self-described substitute teacher at Minnesota public schools.
“Hang that peace [sic] of **** from a red light in the middle of baton rouge,” added Gerald Smith, a Blue Lives Matter supporter.
A commenter named Danny Sutton who identified as a retired member of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office chimed in with a request for Long’s carcass. Sutton explained that he wanted to deliver the dead body to the local chapter of the New Black Panther Party, a black nationalist group with no connection to the Baton Rouge shooting.
In post after post, Blue Lives Matter commenters have erupted with violent and racist diatribes against the Black Lives Matter movement. A meme posted on the page on July 12 by a commenter named Reese Franklin typified the way Blue Lives Matter supporters discuss their perceived arch-enemies, and earned hundreds of likes: “It’s Time For Police To Take The Gloves Off And Put These Black Lives Matter Terrorists Down.”
“I hope they've enjoyed theirselves,” a commenter named Haley Susann Harris said of Black Lives Matter. “Won't be too much longer until bigger and better people and guns abolish the entire BLM ‘squad’. Going to start pissing off just those right type of people soon.”
In a separate thread, Eric Thomas, an Army veteran now working at the Florida Department of Transportation, called on whites to take a stand. “Will white America stand up and stop allowing this bullshit from the racist black community!” Thomas stated. “Tell these people to grow up and stop blaming whites for their problems!”
One of the few dissenters to weigh in on the Baton Rouge thread was an African-American woman named Asha Jamila. “People like the shooter read threads like this and thats all the motivation they need,” Jamila warned. “#BLM wouldn’t have to say one word.”
Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.