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Activists Demand Apology From Sheriff On ‘Black Lives Matter’ Comments

The fatal shooting of a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy has shifted the conversation, with some law enforcement officials suggesting the Black Lives Matter movement may have contributed to his death.

HCSO Goforth presser2
“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, all lives matter… Well, cops lives matter too. So why don’t we just say lives matter and take that to the bank?” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman in a press conference after the fatal shooting of Deputy Darren Goforth.
Black Lives Matter was founded in 2012. The social justice movement came in response to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Activists mobilized after George Zimmerman, the white man who shot Martin, was acquitted of all charges. The movement spread rapidly after a spate of high-profile deaths of unarmed African-Americans, like Michael Brown. Demonstrators have continued to rally around events like the apparent suicide of Sandra Bland at the Waller County Jail.

The idea behind the movement was to shed light on injustice and hold authorities accountable. But recently, that conversation has shifted. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman spoke about the movement after the fatal shooting of Deputy Darren Goforth.

“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, all lives matter,” Hickman says. “Well, cops lives matter too. So why don’t we just say lives matter and take that to the bank?”

He criticized the “out of  control” rhetoric of movements like Black Lives Matter, saying it’s led to negative attitudes about police officers. Other law enforcement officials have echoed his statements. A sheriff in Georgia referred to those who allege racism in policing as hate groups. A police chief in North Carolina retired after a Facebook post surfaced in which he called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group.

But State Representative Garnet Coleman, a democrat from Houston, says it was irresponsible of Hickman and others to cast blame on Black Lives Matter.

“I understand why somebody might think that, but there’s no validation of that whatsoever,” Coleman says.

In the Goforth case, Shannon Miles, a black man, is accused of fatally shooting the deputy as he was pumping gas into his patrol vehicle. Investigators have not stated a motive, or said whether Miles had any connection to Black Lives Matter. Coleman says it’s important to consider that Miles’ attorney says his client was committed to a county psychiatric center in 20-10. He has yet to undergo a psychological evaluation in this case.

“When someone of another color does something like that, the first thing anybody says is, ‘oh it must be because they have a mental illness,’” Coleman says. “Well, nobody ever said that about him. He was doing this because of Black Lives Matter.”

Some activists are calling for a public apology from Hickman. A group of students from Texas Southern University addressed the sheriff’s comments at a recent press conference. Anthony Collier says Hickman is trying to use Goforth’s death to discredit the movement.

“Black Lives Matter is a cry to remind the general public and those who are paid by black tax dollars that black lives matter also and should be valued just as much as other lives,” Collier says.

The students also took issue with statements made by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who said it’s time for the “silent majority” to support law enforcement. Collier says Anderson was dismissive of those who have faced injustice at the hands of police.

“We expect more from those chosen to represent us, and we are deeply disappointed by such reckless and uninformed opinions from those who are supposed to be our leaders,” Collier says.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland seems to strike a middle ground. As a law enforcement leader who’s also African-American, McClelland says he thinks it’s possible for police and Black Lives Matter to coexist peacefully.

“The majority of law enforcement officers go out here and do their job and do it professionally and by the book day in and day out, just like I think the majority of folks in the Black Lives movement have no nefarious agenda,” McClelland says.

McClelland says he has no problem with activists trying to hold police accountable when they overstep their authority. But the chief says some small groups may take the messages as a literal call to action.

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Tomeka Weatherspoon

Senior Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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