Activist John Sloan III saw the swell of White faces in Black Lives Matter protests after the killing of George Floyd and girded for the worst. He acknowledged it proved the Democratic establishment was coming around to his cause. The Detroit Black Lives Matter organizer was worried the increased support would turn a cause anchored in grass-roots uprising into a commercialized, mainstream political movement. He voted for Joe Biden anyway, reports the Washington Post. “Joe Biden was not my first choice. Not my second choice. He was not my third choice,” said Sloan, 37 His hesitant support for Biden reflects a divide among racial justice activists about the movement’s strategy. Some factions of the Black Lives Matter movement — which spread globally with decentralized leadership and multifaceted goals — worry that Biden embodies the cautious brand of moderate politics they loathe. The president-elect’s support for the 1994 crime law, which disproportionately affected Black with mandatory minimum sentences and other tough-on-crime policies, has fueled their skepticism.
Biden campaigned as a supporter of the movement, asserting in a fall campaign ad that “Black lives matter. Period.” The Black Lives Matter Global Network has demanded a meeting with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “We want to be heard and our agenda to be prioritized,” wrote Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the movement. The Breathe Act is a federal proposal Black Lives Matter hopes will become a road map for congressional action. It calls for divesting federal resources from policing and incarceration, expanding funding for low-income schools, creating a universal basic income for poor Americans, overhauling drug laws and ending mandatory minimum sentences. Justin Hansford of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University said the “biggest mistake” Biden could make would be merely to repackage reform proposals that circulated during President Barack Obama’s second term.