In a somewhat overlooked article, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie tries to explain the Black Lives Matter Netroots Nation (and Bernie Sanders rally) protests.
According to Slate, Hillary Clinton skipped this year’s Netroots Nation gathering in Phoenix. She hasn’t been to the event since her first, (disasterous) experience there eight years ago.
What happened in 2007? In 2007, the event was called YearlyKos. Clinton was a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. She refused to join her primary opponents, Barack Obama and John Edwards, in a pledge not to take campaign contributions from lobbyists. She was reportedly booed off the stage.
This year, Clinton’s most visible primary opponents—Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley—made a trek to the conference.
Again, the politicians had difficulties and, in the process, brought an “intra-left” divide to the center of attention, according to Jamelle Bouie.
Bouie explains the Netroots event:
“After a few minutes of protest, organizers handed protesters microphones, and they used the opportunity to question and challenge O’Malley on police brutality. O’Malley, notes BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer, was supportive, nodding his head in assent to the questions and concerns.
“He erred, however, when protesters shouted their slogan, ‘Black lives matter!’ O’Malley responded, ‘Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.’ The demonstrators booed. The reason is easy to understand. ‘Black lives matter’ is a statement of specific concern; police violence is most acute against black Americans, and so activists stress the importance of their lives. To reply with ‘all lives matter’ is to suggest there’s no specific problem of police abuse targeted at black Americans.It’s as if someone responded to an annual breast cancer drive with ‘Breast cancer matters. Prostate cancer matters. All cancer matters.’ It sounds like a dismissal, and that’s how it was received.
“If this was a miscue, then the confrontation with Sanders was a fiasco. Whereas O’Malley adjusted to protesters, Sanders tried to barrel through them. ‘Whoa, whoa, let me talk about what I came to talk about for a minute,’ he said. Speaking over shouts of ‘say her name’ and ‘black lives matter,’ Sanders tried to establish his civil rights bona fides. ‘Black lives, of course, matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity,’ he said. ‘But if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK. I don’t want to outscream people.’ Even if that response was understandable, Sanders only made things worse. When he tried to cite Obamacare as something he’s done for people of color, protesters responded with jeers. One woman said, ‘We can’t afford that!’ When he talked up free college and opportunity for black Americans, a heckler yelled “Public college won’t stop police from killing us!”
“In the wake of all of this, O’Malley seemed to get his error. He apologized for using ‘all lives matter’ and tried to account for his misstep by interacting with activists. Sanders, by contrast, went silent. He canceled his meetings, canceled an appearance, and sidestepped further questions on the subject.”