The Black Lives Matter movement has protested against the killings of African Americans by the hands of police officers since the Trayvon Martin case. Now, its members are seeing the product of their hard work through the indictment of New York police officer Peter Liang for the November shooting of Akai Gurley.
Back in November of 2014, Liang, who had only been on the force for 18 months, along with his partner, was a part of a new task force that the New York police department developed to reduce crime, as reported by CNN. Their job was to patrol housing projects and not to go inside them.
While doing a patrol, Liang and his partner entered the housing project and decided to survey the stairwell. Liang carried a flashlight in his hand to be able to see inside of the dark stairwell. As the officers were leaving the eighth floor, Gurley, who was 28, was entering the seventh floor with his girlfriend when Liang shot him. Liang claimed that it was an accidental shooting.
From the time of the shooting in November until now, the organization Black Lives Matter has been heavily involved in protesting and making the public aware of the incident, as well as challenging the court to produce justice.
On Feb. 11, Liang was charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault and two counts of misconduct.
Gurley’s story is not the only one that Black Lives Matters works to give a voice to. Other cases preceded Trayvon Martin, such as Michael Brown and Erin Gardner, and set the stage for a movement like Black Lives Matter to form.
In 2003, Ousmane Zongo, an immigrant from Burkina Faso, was shot four times in the chest by the New York police department during a raid in a Manhattan warehouse. Zongo was unarmed and had nothing to do with the raid. The police officer who shot him was convicted, given community service and probation for killing an unarmed man.
In 2006, 26-year-old Sean Bell and his friends were out driving the night before his wedding when undercover New York police officers shot at his vehicle 50 times. Bell’s wounds were fatal, and he died the morning of his wedding. All officers investigated where acquitted.
In 2010 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was asleep in her bed in Detroit when a member of a SWAT team shot her during a raid while looking for a suspect. Two trials have been conducted, but both have ended in mistrials.
The Black Lives Matter movement has made it their priority to shed light on crimes like these that were committed against African Americans across the country.
“When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state,” according to the organization’s website.
The Black Lives Matter movement originally started in 2012 as a response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin trial. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter rapidly became a popular addition to comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that concerned race.
The movement expanded when the case of Michael Brown yielded no guilty verdict. Protesters lined the streets and created vigils in his honor. The case of Erin Gardner created the same urgency to promote awareness of what was happening in the African American community.
Senior Sarah Goll said, “I don’t know a lot about Black Lives Matter, but I know that everyone is not treated equally in this country.”