Last summer, the future of the civil rights movement that convulsed Ferguson, Mo., remained an open question. The daily protests had captured the nation’s attention and spread to cities nationwide, but how would a leaderless and spontaneous outpouring of outrage survive, asks the Christian Science Monitor? Could anything actually change? The protests in Baltimore this weekend are the latest proof that something has already changed. Quintessentially 21st-century tools – social media, smartphones, and 24-hour news channels – combined explosively with a longstanding trend of police violence that seems increasingly dissonant amid improving race relations and declining crime. This past week, that trend added the name Freddie Gray to the list of black men whose deaths have brought attention to the issue of police violence. He died a week after sustaining a major spinal injury while in Baltimore police custody and protests have been going on ever since.
Those protests hint at how a leaderless movement has survived and evolved. It has adapted. “All night, all day; we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray,” has been the mantra in Baltimore. “What we are seeing with Black Lives Matter is a combination of highly localized issues,” Manuel Pastor, a sociologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, told Mother Jones. “And there is no shortage of police community tension around the country that people can be part of. So people have local handles but they are really seen as part of a broader national challenge.” Each protest has been its own ecosystem – flexible enough to be as potent in Madison, Wi., (6 percent black) as it is in Baltimore (65 percent black). It is civil rights, outsourced to the camera-toting masses and repackaged for the new century.