The Movement and its Mobile Journalism

A phenomenology of Black Lives Matter journalist-activists

Authored by: Allissa V. Richardson

The Routledge Handbook of Developments in Digital Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138283053
eBook ISBN: 9781315270449
Adobe ISBN:


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Marissa Johnson said Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters never saw her coming. Although organizers of the now-infamous Seattle rally for the presidential hopeful knew that Johnson was a leader in the local Black Lives Matter chapter, they expected a man to interrupt the rally that day in August 2015, she said. So, she flanked herself with male colleagues – one black and one white – and went forth. As the black, male activist walked to one corner of the stage, “They put all the security over where he was”, Johnson said, smiling. With the diversion in place, her white male colleague separated the metal barricades to the platform. In a flash, she walked up the makeshift stairs to the dais. The rest became protest history. A young, black woman had just preempted the presidential stump speech of a sitting U.S. senator. Johnson demanded 4½ minutes of silence in memory of Brown, to symbolize the 4½ hours his body lay on a Ferguson street. Some yelled profanities throughout the moment of silence. As it ended, Johnson began a speech on Seattle’s legacy of police brutality. She usurped Sanders’s platform for nearly 30 minutes. The clashing imagery of a seemingly frustrated and forlorn Sanders vis-à-vis Johnson’s bellicosity looped on television news networks. In one interview she conducted with the MSNBC cable news network, she seemed assured and proud of her confrontation. Nearly one-and-a-half years later, however, she said that she has mixed feelings as to whether she would do it again. No one could have prepared her, she said in a February 2017 interview, for the immense personal toll that her activism cost her.

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