In the aftermath of the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Florida, on 26 February 2012, activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi launched the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This initiative gained broad momentum following the fatal shooting of yet another unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on 9 August 2014. Brown’s death ignited mass protests across the United States (and expressions of solidarity worldwide), with #BlackLivesMatter activists calling for an end to racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration, as well as the demilitarization of the police.
A tweet juxtaposing images of militarized security forces in Palestine and Ferguson.
The black and Palestinian liberation struggles share a decades-long history of mutual solidarity dating back to the 1960s student movement on U.S. college campuses, with contemporary organizing efforts often featuring iconic figures such as Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and Cornel West. In the wake of the Ferguson killing and Israel’s 50-day war on Gaza, activists in the United States and Palestine launched the #Palestine2Ferguson campaign in August 2014, to express their mutual solidarity. The hashtag became especially popular after a delegation of Palestine solidarity activists attended the Weekend of Resistance in Ferguson on 10–13 October 2014.
Palestinians sharing photos of themselves with messages demanding justice for the people of Ferguson via social media.
A tweet featuring bereaved fathers mourning their slain children: Michael Brown, Sr. in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of his teenage son, Michael, in August 2014; and Muhammad Bakr in Gaza, after the killing of nine-year old Ismail, one of the four boys struck by an Israeli missile while playing soccer on the beach in July 2014.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) also organized a #Palestine2Ferguson trip in January 2015. Participants included representatives of the Black Youth Project 100, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Florida-based Dream Defenders, which had endorsed the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions call at its December conference.
IMEU Delegation members in front of Israel’s wall, near Qalandia checkpoint. (January, Christopher Hazou/IMEU)
During the trip, #BlackLivesMatter cofounder Patrisse Cullors staged a demonstration in Nazareth. In a short video describing the purpose of the trip and the ties between the black and Palestinian liberation movements, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, stated: “We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. . . . From Ferguson to Palestine, the struggle for freedom continues.” Delegate Aja Monet summed up the trip and the demonstration with a poem, proclaiming, “Here is a protest in the form of a prayer.”
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