Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Outraged and saddened by the acquittal of George Zimmermannthe Florida man who killed an African-American teenager in 2012, Alicia Garzaa resident of Oakland, California, posted a message on Facebook on July 13, 2013, The post contains the phrase “Black Lives Matter”which soon becomes a rallying cry and movement in the United States and around the world.
Garza said he felt “a deep sense of pain” after Zimmerman was acquitted. He was further saddened to note that many people seemed to blame the victim, Trayvon Martin, and not the “disease” of racism.
Patrice Cullorsa community organizer from Los Angeles and a friend of Garza’s, read her post and responded with the first instance of #BlackLivesMatter.
As the hashtag became popular on Facebook and Twitter, Garza, Cullors and fellow activist Opal Tometi built a network of community organizers and racial justice activists under the name Black Lives Matter.
The phrase and hashtag were quickly adopted by grassroots activists and protesters across the country, particularly after the subsequent murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other African Americans at the hands of police officers or would-be vigilantes like Zimmerman.
Simple and clear in its demand for racial dignity, the phrase became one of the main symbols of the protests that erupted after Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. While polls showed that most Americans disapproved of the Black Lives Matter movement when it began, in the years that followed, support for its core arguments grew.
After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 sparked a nationwide protest movement against police brutality and racism, support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased by a margin of 28 points in two weeks, almost as much as in the previous two yearsaccording to the New York Times.