Mothers of the Movement

This is not to minimize any mother’s pain at the death of her child, but the speaker’s podium at a national convention should be a platform from which to bring attention to national problems, one of the more urgent of which at this moment is the rising level of violence in American cities. But among these Mothers of the Movement, only Davis’s and Pendleton’s would seem to have clear standing in this regard. As for the others, consider:

Trayvon Martin was 17 when, in February 2012, he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. After the uproar that ensued when the local district attorney declined to charge Zimmerman, a special prosecutor accused him of murder. The trial ended in acquittal after the evidence showed Zimmerman acted in self-defense while being attacked by Martin.

Eric Garner died of a heart attack in July 2014 after struggling with New York Police Department officers who were attempting to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes on the street in Staten Island. Contrary to popular belief, he was not choked to death, and a grand jury declined to charge any of the involved officers.

Dontré Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer in April 2014. During an altercation, Hamilton gained control of the officer’s baton and struck him in the neck with it. The district attorney found the shooting to be in self-defense, though the officer was fired from the police department for deviating from policy.

Sandra Bland hanged herself in a Texas jail in July 2015 after being arrested following a traffic stop. The state trooper who arrested her was fired from his job and charged with perjury.

Michael Brown was shot and killed in August 2014 by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The fiction that he was surrendering and had his hands up when he was shot engendered the often-repeated “Hands up, don’t shoot” mantra of the Black Lives Matter movement. Investigations by a St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department (PDF) revealed that Brown had attacked the officer and attempted to disarm him, and was charging at him again at the time the officer fired. The claim that Brown was trying to surrender when he was shot was simply a lie.

But it’s a lie that’s nowhere more commonly believed than among the attendees at the Democratic National Convention, who, when the Mothers of the Movement were presented Tuesday night, received them warmly while offering the familiar chant: “Black lives matter!” Nowhere in the coverage that I watched was there mention of the apparent incongruence in seeing Hadiya Pendleton’s mother sharing a stage with Michael Brown’s.