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Activists Put "Black Lives Matter" Shirts In The Window Displays Of Forever 21

The group calls itself "Never 21" in honor of the young black men and women killed by police before their 21st birthdays. BuzzFeed News talked to the group's anonymous spokesperson.

Posted on April 28, 2015, at 5:06 p.m. ET

On Saturday, an activist group called The Never 21 Project posed as Forever 21 employees and dressed the shop's window mannequins in shirts reading "Black Lives Matter."

They also posted a "Black Lives Matter: Never21.com" banner over the second floor and stocked several clothing racks with the "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts.

The protest took place at the Forever 21 on Union Square in New York City.

Never 21 / Via vimeo.com

Never 21 is focused on spreading awareness about the young black women and men killed by police before their 21st birthdays. The site, which is modeled after that of Forever 21, tells the stories of four of them.

The list includes: Aiyana Jones, 7, who was killed in a "botched SWAT raid" in 2010. Michael Brown, 18, who was shot by an officer near his home in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Tamir Rice, 12, who was shot by a police officer for playing with a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014. And Trayvon Martin, 17, who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer after purchasing candy near his house in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.
never21.com

The list includes: Aiyana Jones, 7, who was killed in a "botched SWAT raid" in 2010. Michael Brown, 18, who was shot by an officer near his home in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Tamir Rice, 12, who was shot by a police officer for playing with a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014. And Trayvon Martin, 17, who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer after purchasing candy near his house in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.

Trayvon Martin
HO, Martin Family Photos / AP

Trayvon Martin

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The Forever 21 protest occurred in shifts. First the team with the banner entered the second floor with a legal observer and videographer. After they left, five more protestors entered the store to dress the mannequins and hang the shirts on the racks.

vimeo.com

"It didn't take more than five to 10 minutes," an anonymous spokesperson for the group told BuzzFeed News in an email.

"We practiced a lot, and made sure we were fully aware of the risk we were taking," they added. "It was also super busy in the store, as you can imagine, so that also helped to keep attention off of ourselves. "

Never 21 / Via vimeo.com

The Never 21 Project is comprised mostly of anonymous artists of diverse races, ages, and mediums. "We like it this way because its gives us different perspectives on the issues at hand," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Never 21 / Via vimeo.com
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Though the protest coincided with the death of Freddie Gray and the beginning of the protests-turned-riots in Baltimore over his death, the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that they had been planning the protest for months.

"Some of us had predicted, unfortunately, that another incident would happen close to the action ... Our hearts go out to Freddie Gray and his family," the spokesperson said. "We choose to fight back using non-violent symbolic action, but we're not here to condemn or condone people for how they choose to express their feelings of outrage."

Protestors march against police brutality in New York in December, 2014.
Yana Paskova / Getty Images

Protestors march against police brutality in New York in December, 2014.

"Police officers who commit these heinous crimes need to be arrested, brought to trial, found guilty, and spend time in prison just like anybody else who commits murder," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

"There also needs to be more of an emphasis on cultural education for police officers."

The group believes that no matter how pervasive the stereotype of black men being "armed and dangerous" might be, it does not justify "shooting aimlessly into a dark hallway because he is in an apartment complex with predominately black residents," the spokesperson said, referring to the accidental shooting of Akai Gurley in November.

Never 21 / Via vimeo.com

Trayvon Martin was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. An earlier version of this article stated he was shot by a police officer.

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