The Black Lives Matter Civil Rights movement is suddenly becoming a fashion statement for good and bad, even if that is not the group’s intention.
The movement was lauded during a critically acclaimed runway show by Pyer Moss’ African-American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, during New York’s Fashion Week. However, a more sinister take on the Civil Rights movement recently surfaced at Urban Shield in California.
For the uninformed, Urban Shield is an internationally known law enforcement training conference and weapons expo. Over 50 local law enforcement agencies attended the event, which hosts the biggest preparedness drill in the world.
During the expo part, hundreds of companies sell military-style weapons to local police and fire departments. But who knew the patrons were so fashionable?
One of this year’s most talked about item sold at Urban Shield is a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Black Rifles Matter.”
The spin on the Black Lives Matter movement was created by a guy named Chuck Garcia, who owns American Spartan Apparel.
“You know what that means, right?” Garcia gushed in an interview with SFWeekly. “Black rifles – that’s like M16s or M4s. That kind of gun is black. Myself, I have a collection. California is always trying to ban them. So, you know, black rifles matter, that’s what that means.”
This sort of insensitivity is one of the reasons the event has been opposed since it was founded in 2007. Detractors of the event claim that it promotes the militarization of local and regional law-enforcement agencies.
Last year, residents in Oakland successfully petitioned to have the event moved from a local Marriott to another location outside of the city. This year, the convention has an international focus with teams from 10 different countries, including South Korea, undergoing tactical exercises.
About 150 people protested the most recent Urban Shield event, which was moved to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Predictably, Urban Shield event kicked off on September 11 and ended yesterday (September 15).