The chairperson of Black Lives Matter’s New York chapter said activists will “burn down” the current system in the United States if they’re not given what they want.
“If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right?” Hawk Newsome said.
“And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation,” he said during an appearance on Fox News’ “The Story” on June 24.
Violence has taken place at or near Black Lives Matter protests across the country in recent weeks. The protests followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in policy custody in Minneapolis.
All four officers involved in the arrest were fired and charged with murder or aiding and abetting murder.
Newsome argued that the looting and destruction has led to results.
“Let’s be very real and let’s observe the history of the 1960s. When black people were rioting, we had the highest growth in wealth, in property ownership. Think about the last few weeks. Since we started protesting, there have been eight cops fired across the country,” he said.
When protests were peaceful in previous years, protesters were told of a need for due process any time a police officer hurt someone, Newsome said. “But the moment people start destroying property, now cops can be fired automatically.”
“What is this country rewarding? What behavior is it listening to? Obviously, not marching. But when people get aggressive and they escalate their protest, the country listens, cops get fired; now you have police officers, you have Republican politicians talking about police reform.”
The organizer said that the United States “is built upon violence,” referencing the American Revolution and how the country has replaced leaders it didn’t like in various countries.
“So for any American to accuse us of being violent, it’s extremely hypocritical,” he said, alleging that when black people talk about arming and defending themselves, the reaction is to paint it as violence, but when white people do the same, “it’s all good.”
Newsome clarified that he neither condones nor condemns rioting. He added later, “I just want black liberation and black sovereignty, by any means necessary.”
Newsome traveled to Minneapolis in May when rioters destroyed dozens of businesses. He told CBS 6 after returning to New York, “When the fires were burning, and people were chanting, I just felt liberated for a brief moment, and I felt for one of the only times in my life that the government had no control over me.”
Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 after George Zimmerman, a Hispanic American, was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager.
The group says its mission “is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” Recently, the group has joined the push to defund police departments, with some calls to abolish the departments completely.
Members and organizers also are pressuring lawmakers to place a number of restrictions on police officers.
Co-founder Patrisse Cullors has described herself and and another co-founder, Alicia Garza, as “trained Marxists,” or adherents to theories promoted by Karl Marx, known as the founder of communism.
The Democratic National Committee officially endorsed Black Lives Matter in 2015, and Cullors said on June 19 that her organization has a new goal: to remove Republican President Donald Trump from office.
Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.