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Kendrick Lamar's Alright: Black Lives Matter conference uses song as rallying cry

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Josh Brasted/WireImage

Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 release, To Pimp A Butterfly, is a dense, 16-track chronicle of the experience of being black in America that’s made up of a pastiche of the entire history of black American music. Along with rap, soul, jazz, funk, blues, arguably the most affecting part of the album was its highly politicized spoken word interludes, as used in “Alright.”

That the record (or parts of it) would eventually find a home outside the confines of its own political commentary and join the cry of other rallies, groups, and movements was inevitable — and came to fruition on Sunday when activists protesting against police harassment at Cleveland State University used “Alright” for their chant as they left a Black Lives Matter conference.

Police had officers detained a 14-year-old black boy for alleged public intoxication, and following his arrest, protesters surrounded the officers and blocked the police cruiser’s path. Shortly after, the activists began chanting “Alright,” as seen in the below video. 

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has released a statement on the incident. It is reprinted in its entirety below.

At 4:40 p.m. on July 26, Transit Police officers on patrol peacefully removed a intoxicated 14-year old male from a bus. Police said the juvenile was intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.

Transit Police escorted the youth from the bus to a bus shelter on Euclid Avenue at East 24th Street.

Transit Police followed normal procedure, which is — after pertinent information is collected, to release the juvenile to a parent or legal guardian.

Within minutes, a large crowd had gathered, surrounding the bus shelter. For the safety of the juvenile, Transit Police moved him from the open shelter area to a police cruiser. The crowd then surrounded the car, with some individuals pounding on the car in an attempt to remove the juvenile from the car. By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded.

Cleveland Police reported to Transit Police that it received a tip that 4 armed individuals were enroute to the scene in a white Oldsmobile.

The crowd that surrounded the police cruiser kept it from leaving the area. When it was obvious that the car could not move forward — due to approximately 50-100 individuals blocking the way and sitting in front of the car — police attempted to back the car up, where fewer persons had gathered.

When members of Transit Police explained that their goal was to release the youth to his mother, several in the crowd asked that the boy be released to them, and that they, in turn, would give him to his mother. Transit Police explained that they could not release the boy to anyone except a parent or legal guardian.

Police tried to move back the crowd behind the vehicle to try to leave the scene, but individuals were not cooperating. Then, a Transit Police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to clear the way. This was ineffective, as additional persons filled in behind the car, once again blocking its departure.

After EMS arrived on the scene, the crowd cooperated with the officers and moved aside, so the juvenile could be escorted from the police cruiser to a waiting EMS unit to be examined.

After he was cleared by EMS at 5:47 p.m., the juvenile was released to the custody of his mother, who had arrived at the scene.

There were no arrests.

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