In the wake of the horrific murders of the five police officers shot and killed at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas Thursday night, it is worth examining one of the anti-police movement’s most affluent and influential supporters: pop superstar Beyoncé.
The 34-year-old Houston, Texas-born multi-hyphenate has spent years stoking anti-police sentiment. While it would be wholly inaccurate — not to mention unfair — to pin direct blame for Thursday night’s police murders on Beyoncé, the singer has frequently chosen to amplify the demonstrably false narratives propped up by the Black Lives Matter movement, when she could be using her considerable influence to educate and unite.
The early indicators of Beyoncé’s support for the movement were subtle. In July 2013, the singer joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a “Justice For Trayvon” rally in Manhattan, New York. The event was a protest march for Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen whose shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement. At the event, Sharpton called Beyoncé and her hip-hop mogul husband Jay Z “two of the baddest artist that have ever been.”
— #GreenToday (@IamEkomy) July 20, 2013
By April 2014, Beyoncé had been named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential People.
In August of that year, the singer personally honored Michael Brown — the black teenager shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson following a confrontation — memorializing him in a personal Facebook message on the day he died.
“Today we will honor you and continue to fight for society to respect the humanity of people,” the singer’s Facebook post read. “You are forever in our hearts #MIKEBROWN.”
Beyoncé also recently included Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, in a video for her Black Lives Matter-inspired visual album Lemonade.
By December of 2014, Jay-Z and Beyoncé were posing in holiday vacation pictures performing the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popularized by protesters of Brown’s death — even as a later investigation found that Brown did not have his hands up when Officer Wilson fired on him.
— Paradise 🎶 (@InspireMeVirgo) December 24, 2014
In February 2015, Beyoncé paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement during her performance at the Grammy awards.
Beyonce w/the "Hands Up Don't Shoot" last yr during her performance. Trying to support BLM &getting bashed by Coons pic.twitter.com/yM8anEaPlV
— Lovely2BMe (@Lovely2BMe81) February 13, 2016
In May 2015, Breitbart News reported Beyoncé and her husband had anonymously wired “tens of thousands” of dollars in bail money to Black Lives Matter activists who had been arrested during the riots in Ferguson and in Baltimore, Maryland.
“When we needed money for bail for Baltimore protesters, I asked hit Jay up, as I had for Ferguson, wired tens of thousands in mins[sic],” wrote self-described social justice organizer and journalist Dream Hampton in a series of tweets since deleted but captured by Complex. “When BLM (#BlackLivesMatter) needed infrastructure money for the many chapters that we’re growing like beautiful dandelions, Carters wrote a huge check[sic].”
Beyoncé’s Black Lives Matter activism hit a high-water mark in February 2016 when she performed a tribute to the Black Panthers during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show.
The lead song for her racially-charged performance was “Formation,” the music video of which is rife with Black Lives Matter-supportive imagery. The singer is shown sitting on a sinking police car, while another scene features a graffiti-tagged wall bearing the words “Stop Shooting Us.” Another scene depicts police officers raising their hands in the air in front of a boy clad in a black hoodie.
Beyoncé in her new video drowning a cop car, hands up don't shoot, double middle finger, "don't shoot us"….wow!!! pic.twitter.com/EKX7nqLtAA
— BIG🇺🇸MIKE (@BigMikeLINY) February 7, 2016
Before the song was heard by tens of millions during the Super Bowl halftime show, it was exclusively available for download via Tidal, the subscription-based streaming service co-owned by Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Earlier this year, Tidal pledged to donate $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter.
The singer faced some significant backlash over the controversial Super Bowl show. The performance was sharply criticized by law enforcement officials, but was also praised by purveyors of racial politics.
Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, said she “absolutely loved” Beyoncé’s performance.
At the same time, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused the singer of blatantly using the performance “as a platform to attack police officers.”
The performance prompted the hashtag #BoycottBeyoncé to immediately begin trending on social media. Several law enforcement organizations, including the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, urged their members to boycott both the singer’s music and her Formation World Tour.
“The Miami Fraternal Order of Police has voted to have all law enforcement officers boycott Beyonce’s concert which is being held at the Miami Marlins Stadium on Wednesday, April 26, 2016,” the organization said in a statement. “The fact that Beyonce used this year’s Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her anti-police message shows how she does not support law enforcement.”
In an attempt to defuse the controversy she had created, Beyoncé told Elle magazine a few months later: “Anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe.”
But just weeks later, she was mocking police officers at several of her concert tour stops by selling merchandise bearing the slogan “Boycott Beyoncé.”
— USA TODAY Life (@usatodaylife) April 28, 2016
Capitalism at its funniest! Beyoncé selling her own Boycott Beyoncé shirts, trolling critics and "protesters"😂 pic.twitter.com/2PaXTRwfYm
— Juliana Jai Bolden (@JulianaJai) April 27, 2016
— POPSUGAR (@POPSUGAR) April 27, 2016
Most recently, Beyoncé honored Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the two men killed in separate police-involved shootings this week, with a lengthy, impassioned statement on her personal website — but remained conspicuously silent Friday after gunmen executed five police officers and wounded seven more at a Black Lives Matter protest in her native Texas.
It would be sensational — and extraordinarily unfair — to say that Beyoncé actively condones the murder of police officers, or that she advocates for any other form of violence against law enforcement.
But the singer clearly has a massive platform and a considerable level of influence on American popular culture. To continue to advocate for the anti-law enforcement Black Lives Matter movement will only further contribute to the rising — and unfortunately, deadly — anti-police sentiment across the country.