Speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, the presidential hopeful accused the movement of encouraging lawlessness and violence against police (video below).
“I don’t believe that that movement should be justified when they’re calling for the murder of police officers,” said Christie, who also criticized President Barack Obama for supporting the network.
Black Lives Matter began in 2012 in response to the killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin. Since the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the movement has quickly grown into an international network of advocacy and engagement with over a dozen chapters across the U.S. and in Toronto. Black Lives Matter has become the rallying cry of many African Americans in the fight against police brutality and racial profiling.
But since the beginning, its legitimacy has been both questioned and denied. Many view the movement as an attempt to put the lives of African Americans above others and have responded with the controversial phrase “all lives matter.”
Others have simply dismissed the network as a group of angry black people.
Governor Christie’s words have managed to perpetuate this denial and in doing so, he also denies the very real existence of police brutality and profiling against blacks. According to Mapping Police Violence, a research organization that collects data on police killings in the U.S., black people are three times more likely to to be killed by police than white people. And of the 240 police killings this year alone, only three have resulted in the officer being charged with a crime.
In his interview Christie resorts to using the same coded language too often heard in discussions of African Americans. Using words such as “lawlessness” and “violence,” he engages in racially charged language that likely won’t resonate with the general public. But to African Americans, these kinds of words strike a chord.
It’s dog-whistle politics at its finest.
The assertion that the Black Lives Matter movement encourages the murder of police officers is a dangerous accusation that cannot be taken lightly. There is no denying the movement’s peaceful mantra has in fact been marred by violence carried out in its name (like this footage of a small group of protestors in New York calling for the deaths of police officers last year). Yet the majority of Black Lives Matter members continuously advocate for social justice peacefully by conducting marches and sit-ins.
The Black Lives Matter website also explicitly states its commitment to “peace” in its “engagement with one another.”
In the same way African Americans are told to not paint all police officers with the same brush, are Black Lives Matter supporters not owed this same courtesy?