After a dozen vocal members of the “Black Lives Matter” movement disrupted Hillary Clinton’s rally in Atlanta last week, Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, left the event without meeting with the protestors.
Minutes after the rally may not have been the appropriate time for Clinton to show the protestors some love. But meeting with them at some point may be a good idea after the small group of protesters interrupted Clinton’s speech, singing and chanting for about 30 minutes before they were escorted out of the event.
Clinton and her staff, may need to acknowledge the “Black Lives Matter” movement in a more constructive way or face more public protests, which could put Clinton in an awkward predicament in the weeks ahead. Their strategy is to get Clinton’s attention and their mission is to press forward with their agenda loudly and radically – much like the Tea Party movement in the Republican Party.
During the demonstration at Clark Atlanta University, Clinton did acknowledge the protesters who shouted “Black Lives Matter,” saying “Yes, they do,” but the protesters kept pressing their case. To Clinton’s credit, her speech in Atlanta focused on racial disparities in the nation’s criminal justice system and today’s civil rights issues.
And the protesters should have stuck around to listen to her message.
She called for ending racial profiling, pledging to back legislation to ban racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, “by prohibiting them from relying on a person’s race when conducting routine or spontaneous investigatory activities.”
“So to all the young people here today, those who are listening and those who are singing, let me say this: We need you. We need the promise of a rising generation of activists and organizers who are fearless in your advocacy and determination,” Clinton said.
“Actually, a few weeks ago, I sat down with some of the people here,” Clinton said. “We had a very nice conversation. And they were full of energy and ideas, and they shared some of their experiences with me…And I know very well for many white Americans it is tempting to close our eyes to the truth, to believe that bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists,” she said. “But as you know so well, despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”
While the protesters shouted at Clinton, U.S. Rep. John Lewis asked the protesters to stop shouting and stood with Clinton on stage in a visible show of support. Clinton continued with her speech by listing some of the many unarmed Black men and women who have died during altercations with police or during questionable circumstances.
“And the names of young African American men and women cut down too young is a rebuke to us all,” she said.
“Walter Scott shot in the back in South Carolina.”
“Tamir Rice shot in a park in Ohio. Unarmed and just 12 years old.”
“Eric Garner choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on a street in New York.”
“Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody in Baltimore.”
“And Sandra Bland, a young woman who knew her rights and did nothing wrong, but still ended up dying in a Texas jail cell.”
But the protesters from “Black Lives Matter” had already been escorted out of the rally and never heard the substance of Clinton’s speech.
“So I’m sorry, I appreciate their passion, but I’m sorry they didn’t listen because some of what they’ve been demanding I am offering and intend to fight for as president,” Clinton said. “For example, I will make sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are not used to buy weapons of war that have no place on the streets of our country.”
Clinton is counting on African American voters to turn out strong for her in November. In 2008, 56% of black voters supported the Democratic primary and the Clinton campaign would like to build on that momentum.
But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author and political analyst, argues in a recent editorial that Clinton already has a lock on the Black vote.
He’s probably right. But for Clinton to mobilize even more young Black voters — young Black folks who are enthusiastic about her candidacy — she may need to sit down with these young people to hear exactly what they believe she should do in order to earn their vote.
What do you think?