“[T]errorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims’,” the 6 July “We the People” petition reads. “This definition is the same definition used to declare Isis and other groups, as terrorist organisations.”
The petition cited demonstrations in Ferguson, Baltimore, and “even at a Bernie Sanders rally” as reasons for the designation.
“It is time for the pentagon (sic) to be consistent in its actions,” the petition continued, “and just as they rightfully declared Isis a terror group, they must declare Black Lives Matter a terror group on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety.”
The petition garnered more than 140,000 signatures in less than two weeks.
“The White House plays no role in designating domestic terror organisations,” the We the People wrote in response. “The US government does not generate a list of domestic terror organisations, and therefore we are not able to address the formal request of your petition.”
Mr Obama elaborated further.
“I know that there are some who have criticized even the phrase ‘black lives matter’, as if the notion is that other lives don't matter,” the President said. “I think it's important for us to also understand that the phrase 'black lives matter' simply refers to the notion that there's a specific vulnerability for African-Americans that needs to be addressed.
“It's not meant to suggest that other lives don't matter. It's to suggest that other folks aren't experiencing this particular vulnerability.”
He added that “insisting we do better to root out racial bias is not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals,” and acknowledge the potential for peaceful protest to “be hijacked by an irresponsible few”.
“But even those who dislike the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’, surely we should be able to hear the pain of Alton Sterling's family,” he said, “and know that his life mattered to a whole lot of people of all races, of all ages, and that we have to do what we can, without putting officers’ lives at risk, but do better to prevent another life like his from being lost.”
Mr Obama’s response came after the shooting during a Dallas protest against police violence, where five officers were killed. The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, is believed to have targeted officers in the attack.
Similarly, the response came the same day as former US Marine Gavin Long killed three Baton Rouge police officers. He was eventually shot and killed by police.
In the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, Long referred to the incident as “justice” in a video diary posted to YouTube.
The shooters – both of whom were black men – were not linked to groups that organised protests against police violence in either Baton Rouge or Dallas. Nonetheless, critics continue to insist there is a link between the violence and Black Lives Matter – the organisation, the social media movement, and the demonstrations.
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