Black Lives Matter has been a slogan, a rallying point, and a movement that led protests coast to coast, calling for the U.S. to get serious about preventing Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement. BLM’s influence faces a test, as voters consider candidates who endorsed or denounced the BLM movement amid a national reckoning on race, the Associated Press reports. “We’re a very young organization with a whole lot of visibility in a really short amount of time,” said Patrisse Cullors, one of three BLM co-founders. It would be “false,” she said, “for anyone to put it on us solely around what happens in this election cycle.” Many candidates from both major parties have moved toward the political center or further to the right, making it clear that they “back the blue” or do not support calls for defunding the police. Neither President Donald Trump nor former Vice President Joe Biden would reduce police budgets.
Still, there are reasons for BLM supporters to feel optimistic. The group is flush with cash, which it is using in the hopes of playing a significant role in the election. There is a growing roster of candidates who’ve been nurtured, inspired or supported by the movement. St. Louis area residents are likely to elect Cori Bush, a Ferguson protester who is running for Congress. BLM has gone from social media hashtag to a influential movement and an organization with millions of dollars to advocate defunding police departments as a way of addressing systemic racism. It began seven years ago amid its organizers’ outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. BLM formed a network of chapters in 2015, building an organization that drew funding from celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and the late Prince.