chapter  8
26 Pages


Understanding anti-police protest as a cultural practice
ByPaul Mutsaers

This chapter is a product of a larger project on ‘hashtag activism’ against police. It is based on a digital ethnography of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Chapter in Chicago and its social media activities in an ultra-punitive zeitgeist obsessed with ‘Black criminality’. The chapter opens with a new designation introduced by the FBI ‒ ‘Black Identity Extremists’ ‒ which set BLM and the FBI at loggerheads, and continues with an analysis of how BLM seeks recognition for Black victims of police violence in the United States. It will be argued that they do so by challenging the position of the individual in legal processes: through exposure of police violence against Black Americans as a form of structural violence amounting to state crime, and by drawing attention to victimhood as a form of collective suffering. The role of social media comes fully into view, as they give people the ‘archival power’ that links together countless events of police violence and because they do the work of publics; that is, they help to bring together strangers who are united on the basis of a common concern.