Black Lives Matter Activists Bring Their Agenda to Hillary Clinton
Representatives from the Black Lives Matter movement met with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday to discuss criminal justice, race, and police reform. The vocal activists have led the charge on elevating awareness of police violence against communities of color, emerging and organizing in force following the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The group included representatives from Campaign Zero, a group that has pushed for specific, data-driven policy solutions to police violence while cataloging police shootings of civilians in America.
Two key questions shaped the discussion, according to an outline for the meeting obtained by BuzzFeed: “What is your perspective on the role of the president in changing the current realities of race and criminal justice in America?” and “How will you use your first 100 days in office to advance a racial justice agenda?”
The group also crowdsourced questions for Clinton on Twitter before the meeting. Participants in the #AskHillary discussion gave the organizers a list of tough questions on topics ranging from ending prison privatization to police body cameras to marijuana legalization.
@Nettaaaaaaaa Will she advocate for the demilitarization of police forces so that peaceful protests will not be met with tanks?— Symone Nicole (@NicoleE3767) October 9, 2015
Clinton told the organizers she would work to end federal funding of private prisons and offered a “broad acknowledgment” that prison conditions need improvement, activist Deray McKesson told The Guardian. She also called the repeat incidents of lethal violence against transgender women of color a “national crisis,” according to BuzzFeed. Brittany Packnett, another Campaign Zero organizer, indicated that she was waiting for a more nuanced platform that would illustrate Clinton’s racial justice plans.
Aurielle Marie, an artist from Atlanta who cofounded the youth activism coalition It’s Bigger Than You, reflected on the meeting with Clinton afterward in an interview on CNN.
Racism is America's original sin. To those I met with today, thank you for sharing your ideas. -H https://t.co/ICqYepExxB— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 9, 2015
“We need a candidate who is going to be outright, loud, and adamant about the necessity of protecting black lives in America,” Marie said.
When pressed to share her presidential candidate of choice as Tuesday night’s Democratic debate looms, Marie said that she was “still looking.” Representatives from Black Lives Matter sat down with candidate Bernie Sanders in September, expressing similar appreciation for his willingness to listen to their agenda and answer their questions. Meetings with both candidates raised questions about whether or not Sanders’ and Clinton’s positions of privilege might limit their ability to get in touch with the needs of black voters.
Clinton thanked the activists for meeting with her on Twitter, responding to a request from Marie:
While Sanders released a racial justice platform that addresses criminal justice and race in August, Clinton has yet to release a specific plan or agenda addressing race—though she did call for an end to mass incarceration earlier this year during a speech at Columbia University.
Marie said that while Clinton was willing to “sit down and listen” and said she would advocate for police reform, simply listening was no longer enough.
“We are past the point where we need to just sit around and have conversations,” she said. “The matter is urgent. We are talking about a concept and problem in America that is literally life or death.”