White House Responds to Petition to Declare Black Lives Matter a Hate Group: Nah

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 18, 2016

The White House has an important message for the 144,444 people who signed a petition imploring the administration to “declare Black Lives Matter a terror group”: No.

The petition, created via the We the People platform on July 6—the same day Latino St. Anthony (Minnesota) police officer Jeronimo Yanez (accompanied by partner Joseph Kauser) killed Philando Castile—equated the Black Lives Matter movement with ISIS. From the text:

Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims.” This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. Black Lives Matter has earned this title due to its actions in Ferguson, Baltimore and even at a Bernie Sanders rally, as well as all over the United States and Canada. It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions—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.

CBS News reports that the White House was forced to acknowledge the petition because it garnered more than 100,000 signatures. Not only did the response make it clear that fulfilling this request does not fall under the guidance of the White House, but it also pushed the signers to make change at the local level, saying, “The U.S. government does not generate a list of domestic terror organizations, and therefore we are not able to address the formal request of your petition. We encourage you to engage with your community in the ongoing discussion of how we can better build trust and safety in our communities.”

The response also heavily quoted the speeches the president delivered in the wake of the police-involved shootings of Castile and Alton Sterling:

I know that there are some who have criticized even the phrase “Black lives matter,” as if the notion is, is that other lives don’t matter. And so you get “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter.” I understand the point they’re trying to make. 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.

And so we shouldn’t get too caught up in this notion that somehow people who are asking for fair treatment are somehow, automatically, anti-police, are trying to only look out for Black lives as opposed to others. I think we have to be careful about playing that game, just because that’s not obviously what is intended.