NEW YORK – Black Lives Matter has been a lot of things in its brief, fiery life.
It has been a slogan, a rallying point. A movement that led protests coast to coast, calling for America to get serious about preventing Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement. A heaven-sent resource for people like Helen Jones, desperate for justice after her son died in a Los Angeles County jail.
“Black Lives Matter saved us, because we had nobody,” said Jones.
Now, BLM’s influence faces a test, as voters in Tuesday’s election consider candidates who endorsed or denounced the BLM movement amid a national reckoning on race.
“We’re a very young organization with a whole lot of visibility in a really short amount of time,” Patrisse Cullors, one of three BLM co-founders, told The Associated Press. It would be “false,” she said, “for anyone to put it on us solely around what happens in this election cycle.”
And in fact, many Republican and Democratic candidates vying for federal, state and local office have moved vociferously 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 in local communities.
Still, there are reasons for BLM supporters to feel optimistic, some activists say. 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: For example, St. Louis area residents are all but certain to elect Cori Bush, a Ferguson protester who is running for Congress.
“For the first time, people can hear and consider candidates who will come out and acknowledge the fact that police commit harms against Black and brown folks,” said Tiffany Cabán, a national political organizer for the Working Families Party who helped the party recruit progressive-minded prosecutors.