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Beyoncé Adopts New Role as Civil Rights Leader Over Police Shootings

Beyonce after her Super Bowl 50 performance earlier this year. She has spoken out against police violence in an open letter to fans. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Beyonce after her Super Bowl 50 performance earlier this year. She has spoken out against police violence in an open letter to fans. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Beyoncé, best known until now for her bootie, is taking on a new role as civil rights leader. She’s jumped into controversies over the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Both were gunned down by police, unarmed and non-threatening.

The 34-year-old singer called for an end to “these robberies of lives,” in an impassioned plea posted on her Web site.

Beyoncé has made political statements before over police shootings of young African-American men. But she limited her feelings to her music.

Earlier this year, her song “Formation” and her Super Bowl 50 halftime performance drew criticism on social media. Some interpreted them as anti-police.

The lemonade singer made no apologies. “It makes me proud,” Beyonce said of the performance in an interview afterward with Entertainment Tonight.

She acknowledged that “Formation” was not just another song. “I wanted people to feel proud, and have love for themselves,” she said. Fans called the song a “celebration of blackness.”

But the Sterling and Castile shootings highlighted just how much of a racial divide still exists in this country.

Castile was a popular Falcon Heights, Minnesota public school cafeteria worker. A police officer shot him four times during a routine traffic stop. His girlfriend live streamed the incident on Facebook as he lay dying.

Castile had informed the officer he was licensed to carry a gun and had one in the car. When he explained he was reaching for his wallet, the officer opened fire. The death has been ruled a homicide.

Two officers shot Sterling six times in Baton Rouge, LA. He was pinned to the ground at the time. The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating the incident. Sterling was selling CDs in front of a convenience store.

He reportedly was carrying a gun, but appeared to be under control in videos of the incident shot by witnesses.

Beyoncé lends an influential voice to the controversies. She has a large fan base and is highly regarded. She wrote that she was “sick and tired” of young men and women of color being shot and killed by police.

“These robberies of lives make us feel helpless and hopeless but we have to believe that we are fighting for the rights of the next generation, for the next young men and women who believe in good,” she wrote in the open letter.

She went to lengths to say she was only calling out officers who “fails to value life” and “believes that murder or any violent action by those who are sworn to protect us should consistently go unpunished.”

Beyonce asked her fans to contact their local representatives to demand changes. The singer has 14.5 million Twitter followers.

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