#BlackLivesMatter controversy divides nation

Anissa Ypon, Staff Writer

Videos of nine Stockton police officers arresting unarmed 16-year-old Emilio Mayfield for jaywalking have gone viral on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sources.  The Stockton Police Department defended the allegation that an unidentified officer struck Mayfield with the baton, saying that the teen was asked to use the crosswalk for his own safety, but ignored the officer.

According to a FOX40 News report, Stockton police officers at the scene argued that the reason for Mayfield’s arrest was that he failed to exit the bus lane after being reportedly asked and immediately used vulgar language, telling the officer, “I don’t have to listen to you.”

Following the incident, Stockton protests began over the belief of misconduct during the arrest.  Protesters chanted “black lives matter” and held signs saying “Stop Police Brutality” and “Justice for James Rivera,” a 16-year-old black teen shot and killed by Stockton police on July 22, 2010, during a police pursuit over carjacking.

“I was scared,” Mayfield told FOX40 News. “I was wondering if I was going to end up like one of these black victims out there.”

Mayfield’s family members told FOX40 that they hope the viral video doesn’t lead to violence around the country as the case remains under investigation.

Oppression against the African-American race is written in U.S. history, and while police brutality isn’t a new issue, debates over racial profiling in the justice system continue. Following the deaths of young African-American teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, The Black Lives Matter movement was created and brought momentum to social media and on the streets.

“From what I’ve seen, read, and heard from different blacks around the country is that they don’t feel safe in a place that takes pride in freedom,” junior Genevie Concha said. “It’s up to the people to fight for what they deserve, what’s right, and what’s fair.”

“The Washington Post” compiled an ongoing database that includes whether or not the deceased was in possession of a weapon, stolen vehicle, public disturbance, drugs and more.  “The Post” is also gathering data by age, gender, and race.

“The Post” reported that death by police enforcement has reached an all-time high within the past decade.  According to the United States Census Bureau of 2014, the African American population in the U.S. was estimated to 12 percent, Caucasian at 71 percent, and Hispanic at 15 percent. Of the 800 fatal shootings by police officers among all races in 2015, excluding those who died by stun gun or in custody, 25 percent were of African American descent (14 percent of which were unarmed), 48 percent were Caucasian (7 percent unarmed), and 16 percent were Hispanic (13 percent unarmed).

Most people are only familiar with the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, without knowing the message behind the group of activists.  As the movement spread nationwide, many deem supporters of #BLM as racist and violent.  However, supporters say its intent is to inform people of African-American mistreatment in the U.S.

“I do believe racial profiling in the justice system is still a problem,” senior Cameron Martinez said. “People are treated differently based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs and more.”

Supporters of the movement say Black Lives Matter was created to bring awareness of police enforcement’s use of racial profiling.  The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has a perceived negative connotation among some and opponents have countered with the hashtags #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter. The hashtags have become common defense mechanisms for those who feel offended or don’t believe in the arguments made by the BLM movement.

“When I think of All Lives Matter, it has a more inviting tone for all of us to take a stand against racism,” Martinez said. “I do believe and support BLM, but the reason I support All Lives Matter is because I want representation for all minorities.”