“Black lives matter!” became the rallying cry among activists calling attention to the recent police shootings of black citizens in Ohio and across the country.

Demonstrators against police brutality took advantage of the busiest holiday shopping day of the year by staging a “die-in” at Easton mall on December 20, the Saturday before Christmas. Sixty or so activists gathered in the Easton mall food court, unfurled a banner proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” and struck death poses on the floor.

That same day, the usual holiday hustle at the Beavercreek Walmart was disrupted as nearly 200 protesters and activists took to the aisles to demand justice for the late John Crawford III, a 22-year old black man shot and killed by the local police department earlier this year, as reported by Reilly C. Dixon on A dozen protestors were arrested and charged with obstructing official business and criminal trespass.

This new wave of activism started with Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012. A black youth shot by a white vigilante. Young people protested with unity themes embracing “hoodies and hijabs.” The explosion following Michael Brown’s killing by police in Ferguson and the escalation of resistance after the New York police choked Eric Garner to death appear to have precipitated the rebirth of a militant civil rights movement.

At the center of this movement in Ohio and nationally has been the Ohio Student Association (OSA). Their chants of “black lives matter” and their willingness to be arrested in the finest tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience has made them a force in both state and national politics.

The Politico website offered a detailed analysis of “The birth of a new civil rights movement” on New Year’s Eve. The article pointed out that James Hayes and other OSA activists have met privately with President Obama in the Oval Office. Hayes confirmed this to The Free Press, but would not go into the topics discussed at the meeting.

Politico pointed out that a few days after the meeting, Hillary Clinton used the phrase “black lives matter” in a New York City speech.

One of the hallmarks of a movement is that it is willing to take arrests and no single organization dominates it, and there are many different organizations with a common goal: no excessive use of force by police. In Columbus, there have been town hall meetings led by black ministers and attorneys, candlelight vigils, die-ins and relentless marches and demonstrations.

One of the demands of the movement is actual proof from the City of Columbus that “Black Lives” do indeed “Matter.” The ultimate proof would be the creation of a citizen review board investigating the use of force by the police. In Columbus, the police investigate the police. The Internal Affairs Bureau that looks into police brutality is infamous for withholding public information and exonerating any use of excessive use of force.

Shark attacks vs. police shooting statistics

Last year, The Columbus Free Press cited 2011 statistics revealing that the Columbus Police Department ranked second among major cities in the nation in per capita police shootings of civilians – beat only by the Las Vegas police.

The Columbus Free Press in its September 2014 issue contrasted New York City’s police shootings, a city with more than 8.4 million people, with those of Columbus, at 1/10th the size with 800,000 residents. In 2011, Columbus Police killed 8 people compared to 6 by the New York City police. Overall, NYPD shot 16 people while Columbus’ finest shot 14 citizens.

The Columbus stats were compiled, in part, by Jim Fisher, a former FBI agent and criminal justice professor. The Washington Post called his work, “the most detailed analysis of police shootings to date.”

As Fisher explained, “I searched the internet every day for a year and took note of each police-involved shooting and the basic facts of the case. I may have missed some cases so if anything, my numbers might be low.”

The Washington Post wrote in a September 8, 2014 headline: “How many police shootings a year? No one knows.” The Post pointed out that the federal government keeps track of exactly how many shark attacks occurred in the U.S. (53 in 2013) and also charts the number of hogs living in every state (more than 64 million), but does not keep statistics on how many people are killed by the police. The government does, however, track how many police are shot and killed in the line of duty.

Fisher told The Post, “I was rather surprised to find there were no statistics.” When asked the rationale for the lack of these stats, Fisher replied, “The answer to me is pretty obvious: the government just doesn’t want us to know how many people are shot by the police every year.”

If the government does not collect numbers of police shootings and killings, it follows that they also do not track the racial identity of those shot and killed.

A few other sources, including The Columbus Free Press, are trying to fill the gap. One is D. Brian Burghart, the editor and publisher of the Reno News and Review (circulation 29,000). He launched his “Fatal Encounters” project in 2012. The website Deadspin, owned by Gawker Media, is also compiling a definitive list of police shootings by analyzing local media reports, similar to Fisher’s methodology.

As The Post noted, “Several independent trackers primarily journalists and academics who study criminal justice, insist the accurate number of people shot and killed by the police officers each year is consistently upwards of 1000” in the nation.

Michael Brown was shot on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, spawning the “black lives matter” movement. In the 20 days following his murder, Burghart estimates that 83 additional people were killed by police in the United States. That equals a rate of 4.15 per day. This projects forward to 1515 deaths a year. By contrast, the FBI data for 2012 reports that 48 police were killed while on duty.

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that in 2013, Columbus police “…logged 22 shootings with seven people killed.” This means the police shot 8 more people than 2011, but killed one less. There was a noticeable decline in 2014, with only nine police shootings and four dead in Columbus.

Now it is 2015 and a black man has already been shot and killed by police at Port Columbus.

Attorneys and representatives of the National Association for the Advancements of Colored People (NAACP) negotiated for more than two years with representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, Columbus Community Relations Commission and the City’s Public Safety Officer. The group reached an agreement on a Columbus Civilian Police Review Board, but the first elected black mayor of the city, Michael Coleman, objected to any ordinance or charter revision establishing a Review Board. Perhaps the Mayor’s legacy will reflect that profit for white developers mattered more than black lives.

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