Hillary Clinton met with five #BlackLivesMatter members on Tuesday in New Hampshire after the group was not allowed into the presidential candidate’s forum on substance abuse.
After her event here, Clinton met with the group for 15 minutes, according to Daunasia Yancey, founder of #BlackLivesMatter in Boston. Yancey said that the group felt the meeting was positive, but still has more questions for Clinton on her family’s role in mass incarceration and drug policy.
“We did have a couple of particular questions that we wanted to ask her, and we were able to do so, and she was able to respond,” Yancey told a handful of reporters after the meeting. “We asked the secretary about her and her family’s history with the war on drugs both at home and abroad and how she felt about her involvement in that violence that has been perpetuated, especially against communities of color and against black folks.”
Yancey added that she never heard “a reflection on her part in perpetuating white supremacist violence.”
“She did acknowledge that there are policies that she has been a part of promoting that have not worked,” Yancey added, but said that Clinton’s response was a “political” one.
“I am sure she understands. She is a brilliant woman,” she said. “I think she gave the answer she wanted to give.”
The #BlackLivesMatter protesters were coming to Tuesday’s event to ask Clinton questions during her public forum about mass incarceration. After the protesters told a reporter from The New Republic that they were attending, the protesters showed up slightly before the event started and, according to the Clinton campaign, were not allowed into the main event because the room has been shut down due to capacity by the United States Secret Service.
A Secret Service agent on site confirmed this to CNN.
The #BlackLivesMatter members, along with over a dozen other members of the public, were escorted into an overflow room, where they watched Clinton’s event. Afterwards, Clinton went to the overflow room to meet and take pictures with the 20 or so people inside.
Initially, the meeting between Clinton and the protesters was going to be covered by pooled members of the media, but Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, said the #BlackLivesMatter protesters asked for the event not to be recorded by the media once they were informed journalists would be let in. Members of the media were never in the room with Clinton and the protesters.
A Clinton aide said the protesters asked those in the room to stop recording and photographing during the first moments of their meeting with Clinton. Because of that, the aide said, the campaign did not escort anyone else in after that.
But Yancey cast doubt on the Clinton campaign’s reason for journalist not being let in after the event.
“We said that we did not want to take a photo with her,” Yancey said. “The only thing that we were asked about was whether we wanted to include photos.”
When asked whether they were asked to allow members of the media in, Yancey said, “Nope, we were not asked that.”
The #BlackLivesMatter members filmed their meeting with Clinton, however, and plan to put the video out.
Julius Jones, the head of #BlackLivesMatter Worcester, said after the meeting with Clinton that he felt both parities got something out of it.
“She got something out of the meeting. That much is certain,” he said. “I feel like what we got out of the meeting was to actually press her in a very real way — probably in a way that she hasn’t been pressed in a long time about not only her role as a presidential candidate, but her role as first lady, senator and secretary of state.”
Jones added, “What it seemed like was, and what she did say was that, she would want to take more the angle of changing more systemic things and looking for and wanting policy reforms that were palatable that she could package and sell. Right? But as far as the arena of the heart, she was not willing to go there.”
In a criminal justice speech earlier in her campaign, Clinton had called for punishments outside of prison for non-violent drug crimes and for police officers to wear body cameras. It’s a reversal from the 1990s criminal sentencing reforms that her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, had signed into law, which increased mass incarceration.
Protesters have disrupted other Dems’ events
Protesters from #BlackLivesMatter groups have disrupted Democratic candidates’ events before.
At last month’s Netroots Nation in Phoenix, both former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were interrupted. Since those protests, Clinton has gone to great lengths to say repeatedly that “black lives matter,” and she has also made race and police reform a key part of her campaign.
Since last month’s protests, O’Malley and Sanders have also tried to address race issues. O’Malley put out a criminal justice reform package earlier this month.
Then, over the weekend, Sanders ceded a stage in Seattle to protesters to make their points at the microphone, but eventually left the stage and called off his event when those protesters didn’t relinquish the podium.
After Saturday’s protests, the Sanders campaign added a “Racial Justice” tab to their campaign issues page.
“We must pursue policies that transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its people of color. That starts with addressing the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic,” the website reads.