More than 20 million Americans showed up to protest for the Black Lives Matter Movement this summer, the New York Times reported.
Of the nearly 8,000 protests that occurred, 93 percent were peaceful, CNN reported on Sept. 4.
Additionally, more than five percent of Black Lives Matter protests were met with force by authorities, in comparison to only one percent of other demonstrations, CNN further reported.
Through the end of May into June, I found myself among thousands of Philadelphians fighting for racial justice, including one protest at the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, where we were shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with tear gas, arrested and hospitalized by police officers. This was one example of egregious abuse of police power against innocent people.
Despite this, United States President Donald Trump has built his election campaign around the polarizing rhetoric that the Black Lives Matter movement is a violent hate group, using instances of vandalism and looting as ammunition for his advertisements.
He also has claimed the movement is trying to instill “toxic propaganda” in schools on Sep. 17 during the White House Conference on American History at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., NPR reported.
This came two weeks after the United States Office of Management and Budget gave a directive to federal agencies to stop any use of “critical race theory” or a “divisive, un-American propaganda training session” on Sept. 4, Politico reported. This includes anti-racism courses and diversity training.
In response to the murder of Elijah McClain and the shooting of Jacob Blake, two Black men who died at the hands of police officers, protests have continued across the country and in Philadelphia demanding reform within the criminal justice system.
By belittling the foundation of Black Lives Matter as a violent hate group, the Trump administration is failing to recognize acts of violence perpetrated by law enforcement and counterprotestors. He even defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the white counterprotester charged with killing two people at a Black Lives Matter protest on Aug. 25 over the death of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“They’re definitely working the outside agitator angle,” said Will Ross, a first-year journalism student about the Trump administration. “I love how they don’t work it on the opposite side like with the Kenosha guy.”
For the Trump administration to make the seven percent of protests that ended in violence the face of Black Lives Matter is a disservice to the movement and its values.
“We are privy to the idea that there are agitators that come to the protests and take the opportunity and what they’re doing is endangering a lot of people of color, Black people when they do those things when it’s not related to the marches or the actions when it’s not done but for a personal reason,” said Hanae Mason, a coordinator for Black Lives Matter Philadelphia.
It’s important to recognize the nonviolent manner of the movement and a majority of its protestors. We are fighting against aggressive institutions in hopes of removing prejudiced violence from our society, and we cannot let the Trump administration deter us from the mission at hand.
“When we talk about the protests, we can’t let the violence distract us from the police brutality that we know is an actual systemic issue,” said Gabriel Elskeakh, a 2020 psychology alumnus.
It’s important to remember these protests for what they are: nonviolent demonstrations advocating for Black lives and social justice. In reality, it is Trump’s manipulation of the masses that is hateful propaganda, not the Black Lives Matter movement.