The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the largest police union in the United States, has published an open letter to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. The note calls for the online retailer to stop selling all apparel and related products associated with Black Lives Matter and its messaging. The letter specifically points to the phrases “Black Lives Matter,” “Bulletproof,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” as those that should be pulled from Amazon’s virtual shelves.
In the letter, Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, writes, “Because I believe you share the FOP’s goal of increasing the bonds of trust between the men and women of law enforcement and the communities they serve, I wanted to let you know that my members are very upset that you and Amazon are complicit in the sale of this offensive merchandise. I understand that these are third party sales, but Amazon does have the ability to prohibit the sale of products which are offensive to the public and which may damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers.”
Just last week, Walmart removed Black Lives Matter-associated merchandise after receiving a similar letter from the FOP. Like with Amazon, the “Bulletproof” and “Black Lives Matter” apparel was being sold through Walmart’s website by third-party vendors.
According to The Economist, Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that black people were 17.3 percent more likely to incur use of force by police after controlling for characteristics like age and circumstances of the encounter (such as running away or trying to assault an officer). Fryer also found that black people were 21.1 percent more likely than whites to have force used against them, even in instances where police described them as being perfectly compliant with police instructions.
While the FOP seems to take issue with the mass-retailing of Black Lives Matter-related merchandise, many believe that the fashion community as a whole hasn’t done enough to call attention to systemic racism and the disproportionate number of African-American men, women, and children. In July, stylist and blogger Hannah Stoudmire boycotted Men’s New York Fashion Week to highlight the fact that none of the participating designers or fashion houses had publicly expressed condolences to the families of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, or any of the other black lives lost at the hands of police violence this year.
In an Instagram post, Stoudmire wrote: “The Fashion Industry acknowledged the Paris Attacks and The Orlando Shootings, but not once did they acknowledge the innocent black lives lost to police brutality. Today is Day 1 of NYC Men’s Fashion Week and I will not attend this year and I know that my presence will not be missed, nor will it matter and business will carry on as usual, but not for me. I’m just not built that way. How do you think I feel as a Black woman who works in this industry?”
Word of Stoudmire’s boycott spread, and a number of protesters appeared alongside her outside of the shows, wearing black T-shirts with the names of black victims of police violence in white lettering. The group stood silently outside of the venue where the men’s shows were being held, with their hands up.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) ultimately responded to Stoudmire and her peers, expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and posting on Instagram about Stoudmire’s protest:
During September’s New York Fashion Week’s women shows, stylist Shayla Hill further underscored the perceive lack of attention by the fashion industry to the Black Lives Matter movement and its issues, wearing garments bearing messages pointedly saying as much — including a pink sequined jacket painted to say, “Vogue Doesn’t Care About Ebony Issues.”