One hundred and sixty-one days after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., hundreds of activists from all around the state of Texas once again gathered to protest police brutality, the lack of justice for murdered unarmed black men and women at the hands of police officers and vigilantes, and for the recognition that black lives deserve the same respect and access to justice as their white counterparts. With the idea that some people believe the #BlackLivesMatter movement is over since it is no longer a trending topic, the leaders of the march, Chas Moore and X (referring to herself as X in order to not detract from the message of the march), emphasized the importance of maintaining the momentum of the movement and creating long term change.
Under the shadow of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus, black leaders, poets and religious figures took to the megaphone to speak of the problems plaguing the black community nationwide and in their respective cities. Many spoke of cases of police brutality affecting their hometowns, including the murders of Larry Jackson in Austin and Clinton Alleen in Dallas, both unarmed black men killed by police officers. They also spoke of the fear they had for their own children and the fact that the frequent killing of black lives at the hands of the police is a new normal for them. One extraordinary young man stated the fact that he was willing to give his time, energy and even his life like the protesters of the Civil Rights movement if it meant that change would come.
See more images from Millions March Texas here
Unlike other marches I’ve attended, this one brought special attention to black female lives, black trans lives and black queer lives lost to police brutality as a response to how they are often ignored in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. One speaker mentioned Sheneque Proctor, who died of asthma complications in an Alabama jail cell after her pleas for help were ignored, being dubbed “The Female Eric Garner” rather than her actual name in headlines about the story. These speakers spoke on the behalf of marginalized groups within the black community and emphasized that #BlackLivesMatter should mean all black lives matter and not just the lives of black males.
Moore decided to retire the slogan “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” in favor of “Hands Down, Fist Up” declaring that putting one’s hands up implies surrender. This difference reflects a change in the movement which is no longer plagued by nightly violence by police like Ferguson in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, but still is more peaceful, yet just as equally rebellious, defiant and not eager to be silenced.
After the the speakers poured their hearts out, the march to the capitol began. Hundreds walked with their homemade signs, flags and banners, chanting slogans like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” that have defined the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Once the protesters reached the capitol, they entered one by one into the building with their signs and fists up to make their presence known to the legislators and politicians in the building.
While there were a handful “revolt on the weekend” protesters out who didn’t seem to take the march seriously (including a white girl who took a selfie in the middle of the march, shocking several groups of people behind her), the overall tone of the march was one of serious dedication to change. Millions March Texas cemented the fact that the #BlackLivesMatter movement will not be ending anytime soon. Even before the march ended, Moore mentioned plans to protest during SXSW, Austin’s largest festival of the year, in March. While #BlackLivesMatter is no longer in your newsfeed, these leaders and protesters are out in the streets with their hands down and fists up hoping to make as big of an impact as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the thousands who marched behind him.