News & Politics

Why This Black Lives Matter Leader Abandoned His Movement

Protest leader, Rashad Turner, far right, leads dozens of protesters in a Black Lives Matter rally in the neighborhood around Governor's Mansion in St. Paul, Minn. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii /Star Tribune via AP)

A Black Lives Matter leader in Minnesota who once led a rally chanting “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” has since abandoned the movement, saying that it is “on the wrong side of history.” He attacked the organization as bad for the black community, especially on the issue of education.

Shortly after defending the hateful anti-police comments at that rally, St. Paul leader Rashad Turner left Black Lives Matter, because the national organization started opposing charter schools. “To hear Black Lives Matter national and NAACP national come out with a moratorium on charter schools put me on the opposite side of the table, and I believe it put them on the wrong side of history,” Turner told The Daily Signal.

Both Black Lives Matter and the NAACP quietly released education platforms attacking charter school growth. Charter schools give parents another option: these schools are run with public funds, but their operators have the freedom to make decisions involving curriculum, culture, budget, hiring, and firing. Such schools have outperformed traditional public schools and close the achievement gap between black and white students.

Not every school is successful, but Turner said he believes parents should have these options. “I needed to be able to do what was right, I don’t want to associate myself with people who feel that parent’s shouldn’t have choice,” he explained.

“Traditional public schools, they’re not meeting the needs of kids,” Turner added. “And then we’re seeing those same kids grow up and because they don’t have an education, they can’t get a job. And because they don’t have a job, now they have a higher risk of committing a crime. Because they commit a crime, now they still can’t get a job.”

Rather than emphasizing alleged racism among police, as Black Lives Matter does, Turner suggested expanding educational options to provide more opportunities to young African Americans who are most at risk of getting caught up in the crime culture. He still has a passion for criminal justice and police accountability, but he argued that education reform will bring the greatest change.

“If we can reform our educational system, if we can make sure that every student has a high quality school to attend that meets their needs, I think that we can eliminate a lot of the ills that we see in the world,” Turner explained. “I think [education] is the most important change that can happen.”

Turner no longer has a relationship with Black Lives Matter, and he now works as director of community engagement with Minnesota Comeback, an organization which aims to enroll all children in “rigorous and relevant schools that prepare them to thrive in college, career, and community.”

“We still have some time to get the truth out there and really paint a more accurate picture for families,” Turner said.

At age 2, Turner lost his father and was abandoned by his mother, he told The Daily Signal. He sought revenge and even enrolled in a police training program “to keep other people’s fathers from being killed.”

After a few months of training, he decided against policing. He also had several negative experiences with police: including being charged with domestic assault, a charge later downgraded to disorderly conduct. Rejecting the police force, Turner became a cultural liaison for African-American students, and in that position he learned that poor schools were largely to blame for his community’s problems.