OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Some veteran civil rights leaders in the Bay Area fear the Black Lives Matter movement lacks focus and, at times, has undermined its own message.
The movement has become a rallying point for a number of different groups — the African-American community, civil right advocates, unions, healthcare workers and everyday Americans.
Activists organized a number of Black Lives Matter demonstrations and rally throughout the Bay Area and country Monday.
“The Black Lives Movement means so much to me. It’s part of my life. It’s part of my struggle and what I’ve been through. And not only me — my parents and forefathers,” said Lorraine Bowser, a union member and BLM supporter who attended a march at Oakland’s Highland Hospital.
Many of the protests held Monday took on the tenor of local communities in which they were held. At Highland Hospital, the focus was on racial inequities in the healthcare system writ large.
“I am trying to change the system for my sons,” said Rev. Jethroe Moore, President of the Silicon Vally Chapter of the NAACP. Moore said he is broadly supportive of the ideals of the Black Lives Matter movement: a recognition of the inherent value of the lives of African-Americans, criticism of their mistreatment at the hands of the police and a call to address issues of racism and injustice in society as a whole.
However, Moore fears the movement lacks focus, relying on empty provocations like marching onto the freeway. He is also deeply troubled by the embrace of property damage as a legitimate means of social protest.
“We must keep the message consistent. If we want oversight, then let’s focus on oversight. But to say we’re here to disrupt and cause anarchy for the sake of anarchy is not helpful to the movement,” said Moore.
President Trump’s re-election campaign has seized on the more extreme elements of the BLM movement, running ads suggesting that if their agenda is successful, the result will be chaos and lawlessness.
However, activists say they will not let their movement be defined by the stereotypes created by the very system they are trying to change.
“We need to identify that as a distraction and as a diversion from the bigger picture and what we need to be fighting for. We need to keep our eyes on the prize. We need to stay focused on policy reform,” said Black Lives Matter organizer Sheleka Carter, who also works at Highland Hospital.