The streets of “occupied” Palestine closely resemble the police brutality witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the US, members of the Black Lives Matter group told The Jerusalem Post.
Ferguson became a hotbed of unrest after police fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014, resulting in a series of riots and protests. Police efforts to dispel the unrest raised even more controversy, leading activists to claim widespread police brutality – one of the issues at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Black Lives Matter has pulled no punches when it comes to criticizing Israel, claiming it is an apartheid state that perpetuates genocide against the Palestinian people, according to its platform released on Tuesday.
For the delegation of Black Lives Matter activists here, who spent the majority of their time in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the parallels between Ferguson and the Palestinian territories were eerily similar.
“Going through checkpoints, seeing rubber bullets, reminds us what our comrades and some of us experienced in Ferguson, [and] IDF soldiers totally remind me of the cops that brutalized [me],” said Ash-lee Henderson, a regional organizer for Project South, which does grassroots advocacy for low-income communities. According to Henderson, a Black Lives Matter movement member, a violent encounter with police left her gravely injured and forced to use a cane for more than a year.
A similar observation was made last month by New York University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which accused Israel of being complicit with police brutality in the United States. The allegation drew swift criticism, resulting in a half-hearted clarification from SJP.
Such a comparison dovetails with the popular BDS slogan, “From Ferguson to Palestine.”
“We’ve met with folks leading the BDS movement to talk about organizing strategies.
There’s a lot of similarities between organizers working in the United States on anti-black racism and organizers here,” said Shanelle Matthews, Black Lives Matter’s communications officer. “We share many of the same organizing strategies.”
Black Lives Matter, which “unequivocally” supports BDS, has “a lot to learn from the movement,” Matthews said.
“I think that one of the best parts of our trip was listening to folks talk about how they strategically thought about building a nonviolent movement that spreads like wildfire across the world in a way that can actually change the conditions in the most oppressed places,” she said.
The full interview will be published as a Frontlines feature in Friday’s paper.