Murders of Black Americans Surged in 2020 Amid ‘Defund the Police’ Movement

By Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.
April 21, 2022Updated: April 21, 2022

The year 2020 saw a 32 percent increase in the number of black Americans murdered compared to the previous year.

Some experts say the spike was caused by the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to defund the police in the wake of the killing of George Floyd the same year.

According to the data from the FBI, the United States in 2020 recorded the largest one-year increase in the number of murders since national records started being kept in the 1960s. The number of homicides year-on-year jumped 29.4 percent.

Black Americans have borne the brunt of the increase. In 2020, 9,941 black or African Americans were murdered, compared with 7,484 the year earlier. The number of black victims jumped nearly 32 percent.

Among whites, the figure rose roughly 21 percent between 2019 and 2020. The FBI data shows 7,043 white Americans were killed in 2020, and 5,787 the year before.

While some researchers attribute the rise to factors caused by the pandemic, others believe that the uptick in murder among black Americans was directly linked to the Black Lives Matter protests that year, and the resulting pullback by law enforcement.

“Certainly, the protests and riots mid-2020 after the death of George Floyd followed a pattern of spiking violence that we’ve seen following past viral police incidents, such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray,” Hannah Meyers, director of the policing and public safety at the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News. “This pattern has been termed the ‘Ferguson Effect’: police pull back while violent crime spikes precipitously.”

Epoch Times Photo
A newly painted Black Lives Matter mural adorns Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower on July 10, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

The effect has been used by some analysts to explain the increase in violent crime following the highly-publicized deaths of Michael Brown in 2014 and Freddie Gray in 2015 while in police custody. The resulting Black Lives Matter protests and swelling anti-police sentiment led law enforcement to stop proactive policing efforts, thus leaving crime to go unchecked.

The federal law enforcement agency’s data show that America reported 944 more black Americans murdered in 2015 than in 2014, a 15 percent increase. Before 2014, the number of black Americans murdered declined by three years, according to FBI data.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2016, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald argued the “Ferguson effect is an issue almost exclusively in black communities.” “It is there where the Black Lives Matter narrative about racist, homicidal cops has produced virulent hostility in the streets,” she wrote.

After the high-profile death of George Floyd, Mac Donald warned that the protesters and riots across the country could lead to “a crime surge that is going to dwarf what we saw in 2015 and 2016.”

“Now, it’s going to be a bloodbath, because the Black Lives Matter ideology has been embraced and amplified by every mainstream institution in this country,” Mac Donald told The Epoch Times in June 2020.

FBI data shows a 43 percent increase of black victims in 2020 compared to the average of the past 10 years. There was an average of 6,927 blacks killed each year between 2010 and 2019.

The average number of white victims was 5,954 during the same period, 16 percent lower than the number of black deaths.

However, blacks only make up 13 percent of the American population, while white Americans make up 76 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census.

Experts have pointed to factors like the stressors introduced or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as a driving force in the spike in killings in 2020.

Christopher Herrmann, assistant professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Epoch Times last year that “homicides are linked to all the pandemic conditions: the higher unemployment, mental, emotional, physical, financial stress, and then that’s concentrated in areas that typically contain higher amounts of poverty.”

But Mac Donald disagreed.

The “spike was not at all related to COVID,” she told Fox News earlier this month, arguing that efforts to defund the police caused the skyrocketing homicide rate in 2020.

A preliminary report from the FBI showed the number of murder and non-negligent manslaughter offenses had increased by 14.8 in the first six months of 2020. And according to the New York Times’ database on homicides, it reached a peak in June, right after the Floyd protests started, and stayed high for the rest of the year.

The wave of protests in 2020 resulted in cities across the United States slashing police funding. New York City, for example, cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget. Officials in Portland where murders skyrocketed in 2020, cut $15 million from police funding.

Zachary Stieber contributed to the report.

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