Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been lauded for attracting a racially diverse group of supporters. Over the past year, after incidents of a police officer killing an unarmed black man, crowds of blacks, whites and Latinos have often taken to the streets to stand with young black activists and families of the victims, in a growing movement that's drawing increasing media attention.
But the same has not happened for Latino victims of police-involved shootings and abuse of power, according to several media reports, because available data do not show the killing of Latinos by police at crisis levels. That’s why Michael Brown and Eric Garner have become household names, while Manuel Angel Diaz and Antonio Zambrano-Montes have not.
“Police violence on African-Americans hits a deeper resonant note because of our history,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate crimes, told Al Jazeera America. “The oppression of African-Americans goes right at the core of our history.”
The percentage of Latino victims of police killings falls below their share of the population, according to research of federal data by Al Jazeera America. Latinos are 38 percent of the U.S. population, but they were just 2 percent of police killing victims in 2013.
Diaz, a 25-year-old unarmed man in Anaheim, California, was killed in 2012 as he ran away as officers approached him. Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old immigrant orchard worker from Mexico, was shot 17 times by Pasco, Washington, police in February for throwing rocks at officers.
There were large protests after Diaz’s death, Al Jazeera reported, but they got little national press attention outside of a brief New York Times writeup. Zambrano-Montes’s death also sparked protests in Pasco, according to a BuzzFeed report.
One reason the deaths of Latinos don’t inspire the same kind of national response as black deaths is that Latino civil rights groups are more focused on immigration reform. They also lack a central figure like the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has a long history of protesting police brutality against blacks.
“It’s a real problem beyond the issue of police abuse,” Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, told Al Jazeera America. “It’s a recurring complaint among Latino leaders. No matter how much people talk about how multicultural things are and how diverse they are, it seems to revert to black and white. … How the hell do you break through that black-white way of looking at policy issues?”