Black Lives Matter Protestors Confront Hillary Clinton Over Past Comments

February 25th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was interrupted by Black Lives Matter activists at a private fundraising event in South Carolina on Wednesday. The protestors held a sign displaying a quote from Clinton in 1996, when she used controversial language to describe crime among Black youth.

Hillary Clinton

Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams and another unnamed activist contributed $500 each to secure spots at the private event and used the opportunity to raise attention to Clinton's history on race and crime, which has drawn criticism from activists. Williams was escorted out of the event by Secret Service shortly thereafter.

"WE HAVE TO BRING THEM TO HEEL," the sign read.

The quote comes from a 1996 speech Clinton delivered while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was in office. In that speech, Clinton characterized some criminals as "super-predators" with no conscience or empathy and said that "we have to bring them to heel."

Williams' sign also featured the hashtag, #WhichHillary, which started trending on Twitter shortly after video from the event was uploaded online. While Clinton has made racial issues a central part of her platform in the 2016 election, her past comments on race and crime have prompted debates over inconsistencies in her public comments.

According to The Huffington Post, Clinton's talking points at the private event included the recent killings of unarmed Black victims by white shooters in South Carolina, including the fatal shooting of Walter Scott by South Carolina police in April, 2015 and the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June, 2015.

"I wanted to bring her to confront her own words," Williams told The Huffington Post. "We did this because we wanted to make sure that black people are paying attention to her record, and we want to know what Hillary we are getting."

The event took place just days before the South Carolina primary, where Clinton leads her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by a wide margin in recent polls.

South Carolina

Despite her strong support among Black voters, Clinton has faced criticism in some corners for using her platform as First Lady to advocate for both the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 and the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, both of which have been criticized as having a devastating effect on black communities.

Sanders, despite an impassioned floor speech calling attention to the economic factors leading to increased crime, nevertheless supported the 1994 Crime Bill as well.

How #BlackLivesMatter Has Impacted the Democratic Primary

The Black Lives Matter movement has played a key role in the presidential election, pushing Democratic candidates to engage in conversations about racial inequality, especially with respect to the criminal justice system.

Activists confronted candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley at the Netroots Presidential Forum in Arizona last summer, challenging them to address issues such as police brutality and the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who died in a Texas jail cell under suspicious circumstances.

At a campaign event in Seattle last year, Sanders was again pressed to respond to racial discrimination in policing after two Black Lives Matter activists took the stage and commemorated the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police in 2014

Both Sanders and Clinton have taken steps to engage with the Black Lives Matter movement, arranging meetings with the organization's leaders in an effort to develop policies that address the concerns of Black voters in the U.S. After a town hall event in New Hampshire last year, an activist asked Clinton "[n]ow that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?"

"I think that there has to be a reckoning," Clinton said. "I agree with that. But I also think that there has to be some positive vision and plan that you have to move people toward."

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