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“Blues Lives Matter” Legislation continues to be pushed in Lansing

October 17, 2017

It is no surprise that legislators in Michigan, like all across the US, have been pushing legislation that is in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, copying the same language, naming it as Blue Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter movement has made the issue of police brutality and the role policing in the black community a larger part of our political discourse, especially since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015. Blue Lives Matter is not a movement, but a racist campaign by the state to present Blacks Lives Matter members as “a threat” to social order.

2015 was the first time that Michigan Legislators attempted to get a bill passed that would make it a more severe crime for people to target law enforcement officers. The proposed legislation was HB 4585, but it never was adopted. 

In May of 2017, a revised bill was introduced, HB 4590, legislation that was introduced by Rep. Klinto Kesto. Kesto, who represents the 39th House District, is a former prosecuting attorney and has received significant amounts of campaign contributions from the Meijer and DeVos families

HB 4590 would specifically punish people who targeted police officers, correctional officers, firefighters or EMP workers

HB 4591 was introduced at the same time as HB 4590, a piece of legislation that was introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden, who represents the 61st House District. Iden is a former Kalamazoo County Commissioner and a Real Estate business owner. Iden has also received a significant amount of campaign contributions from the DeVos FamilyHB 4591 provides more clarity on the ways in which crimes against cops, firefighters, EMP workers and correctional workers would be punished. 

Last week, the legislation was being discussed and you can read the submitted Legislative Analysis as provided by House Fiscal Agency. This analysis notes that there were 16 police departments or police associations in Michigan who gave testimony in support of the proposed legislation. The only opposed statements were submitted by the ACLU of Michigan and Black Lives Matter of Lansing.

Here is an excerpt from the BLM Lansing statement:

Michigan should not fall in line with the states attempting to pass “Blue Lives Matter” laws with the misrepresentation that first-responders are not already protected. Attacks on first responders already carry enhanced penalties and are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Under this bill, Michigan police officers would be considered a protected class alongside vulnerable groups who face discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. There is no evidence that this legislation is necessary or will make first responders safer. There is ample evidence that police have the procedures and trainings to de-escalate encounters at a much higher rate when the civilian is not visibly identifiable as a person of color. The only people killed by police at higher rates than Black people are Native Americans.

Blue Lives Matter bills serve one purpose only and that is to silence criticism and peaceful protest which is a 1st Amendment right afforded to all Americans. Law enforcement is already one of the most powerful and protected organizations in the nation and to attempt to pass legislation that suggests otherwise is deceitful and disrespectful to the families of the innocent people, including children and unarmed civilians, who have been killed by law enforcement officers as if their lives didn’t matter and therefore are not worthy of peaceful protest. The best way for police to build trust with the community is to stop killing unarmed civilians and to take responsibility when it happens.

In Michigan and across the country, Democratic lawmakers have rarely spoken out against the Blue Lives Matter legislative campaigns, primarily because they do not want to be seen as “weak on crime” and because of their relationship to Police Unions.

The lack of any real commitment to defending black people by politicians is also a recognition that the Movement for Black Lives has a very clear a powerful platform. The Movement for Black Lives makes it clear that what they are calling for is an end to the War on Black People. This platform should be required reading for those who think that body cams will be sufficient in dealing with the War on Black People.

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