The growing number of recorded shootings of unarmed black citizens by white police since the last presidential campaign has led to an increase in activist groups. And none is louder than Black Lives Matter.
The group has begun forcing its way into the spotlight at political rallies, demanding that presidential hopefuls be “held accountable to the needs and dreams of Black people.”
Last month, Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley were interrupted in Phoenix. Sanders was interrupted again in Seattle this month. He gave the microphone to protestors, eventually left the stage and called off his event when they did not relinquish the podium
Disrupting politicians seems to be the major way BLM is grabbing attention, although the group said on its website that it “embrace(s) a diversity of tactics.” The site also states:
“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our de-humanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.”
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists on Aug. 11 after the group was not allowed into the presidential candidate's forum on substance abuse. A Secret Service agent told CNN that they had to close the door because of room capacity.
The activists filmed the meeting and released the two-part video on Monday night. The Clinton camp provided CNN with a transcript.
Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston pressed Clinton on her family's role in promoting "white supremacist violence against communities of color."
While Clinton told the protesters that she was "not sure" she agreed that her husband's policies were racist, she did acknowledge not all of his laws worked out as planned.
President Bill Clinton conceded in May that certain policies passed under his administration led to over-incarceration in the U.S. His crime bill, signed into law in 1994, included the federal "three strikes" provision. It mandates life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions—even for minor drug possession. The law has put blacks and Latinos behind bars in disproportionate numbers.
"The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison," President Clinton said.
"I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the '80s and the early '90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now," Mrs. Clinton said. "And that's what I'm trying to figure out and that's what I intend to do as president."
“Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore criticized BLMs tactics, commenting that “Black manners matter.” However, on Aug. 18, the black comedian pushed the group to disrupt GOP candidate Donald Trump—who is often a target of Wilmore’s jokes
Meanwhile Sanders and BLM activist DeRay Mckesson exchanged tweets on Monday, agreeing to meet privately to discuss the senator’s racial justice platform.
“@BernieSanders, the first draft of your racial justice platform has promise. When will you be available to discuss enhancements w/ folks?,” McKesson tweeted. Sanders responded: “@deray Let’s do it. We will PM you this week to arrange.”
Although BLM protests have focused on the Democrats, activists are just getting started. GOP candidates are next. So what does Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican and the only black candidate of either party, think of Black Lives Matter?
“We need to talk about what the real issues are and not get caught up in silliness like this matters or that matters,” he said at a rally to defund Planned Parenthood outside the U.S. Capitol, where protesters held signs reading “Unborn Lives Matter.”