After interrupting a Bernie Sanders campaign event in Seattle, Black Lives Matter activists met privately with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, confronting the Democratic frontrunner about her response to the movement and mass incarceration legislation passed during her husband’s administration.
The five activists had hoped to disrupt last week’s event in Keene, N.H., but were stopped by the Secret Service — and agreed to meet with Clinton after her speech.
Video of the exchange shows the former secretary of state defending her record on racial issues.
“I’ve spent most of my adult life focused on kids,” Clinton said, “to try to give kids — particularly poor kids, particularly, you know, black kids and Hispanic kids — the same chance to live up to their own God-given potential as any other kid.”
Clinton was pressed about how she plans to address on the campaign trail the tensions between white police officers and black communities.
“Once you say that this country has still not recovered from its original sin, which is true, the next question by people who are on the sidelines, which is the vast majority of Americans, is ‘So, what do you want me to do about it?’” she said. “I’m trying to put together in a way that I can explain it and I can sell it, because in politics if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, it stays on the shelf.”
Clinton added: “You can get lip service from as many white people you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it who are going to say, ‘We get it, we get it. We are going to be nicer.’ That’s not enough, at least in my book.”
The former first lady was also pressed about what she would do to change American “hearts and minds” about black lives.
“I don’t believe you change hearts,” she said. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them.”
In an interview with Yahoo News Tuesday, two of the activists, Daunasia Yancey and Julius Jones, said they were grateful for the opportunity to meet with Clinton but were disappointed with some of her answers.
“We were looking to hear a personal reflection from her on her involvement in policies that have targeted black communities in negative ways,” Yancey told Yahoo News. “Unfortunately that’s not what we heard.
“The piece we wanted was a personal reflection on her responsibility in order for us to believe she could take us in a different direction,” Yancey continued. “Hillary Clinton’s feeling about mass incarceration and anti-blackness and white supremacy are hugely important.”
She added: “Every presidential candidate should expect to hear from us and should expect to be held accountable to their views on Black Lives Matter.”
Jones said Clinton’s assertion that “you can’t change hearts” is an “admission that she doesn’t want to challenge the heart of bigotry — this idea that hardcore bigots are just unmovable.”
In June, Clinton was criticized by some for saying “all lives matter” during a speech in Florissant, Mo., less than 5 miles from Ferguson.
Last month, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley apologized for using the same phrase after Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted his appearance at a Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix.
“That was a mistake on my part, and I meant no disrespect,” O’Malley said in an online interview after the event. “I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”
Last week’s private meeting with Clinton came two days after Black Lives Matter activists disrupted Sanders’ speech in Seattle.
Hours later, the Sanders campaign introduced Symone Sanders, a black criminal justice advocate, as its new national press secretary.
“Black Lives Matter is a very, very serious issue,” Bernie Sanders said in a recent interview with the New York Times Magazine. “And clearly, as a nation, we have to move away from a situation where black women are dragged out of their cars, thrown to the ground, assaulted and then die in jail three days later for the crime of not signaling a lane change.”