Saturday, August 8, 2015

Has Anyone from Black Lives Matter Actually Tried Contacting Bernie Sanders?

Yesterday, there was a second disruption of one of Bernie Sanders' events by the Black Lives Matter Movement. You might remember that there was a previous disruption at Netroots Nation where Sanders and Martin O'Malley spoke. (I've heard rumors that in both cases these may have been extremists from the movement and the protests weren't officially sanctioned, but I have no idea how much truth there is in that).

The first time this happened, I was sympathetic. The issue of police brutality in this country and the alarming number of African American lives that have been taken as a result is a serious one. And despite Bernie's long history of upholding human and civil rights, the protesters at Netroots specifically wanted to know "not what you have done, but what you will do." That, to me, seemed a perfectly valid distinction. And I think both O'Malley and Sanders were caught off guard and weren't confident in how to address it (though, I agree with the sentiment that's hard to respond properly to people screaming at you).

Even so, the issues of racism and police brutality were issues that Bernie hadn't discussed much, and I felt his reply at Netroots fell a little flat. But since the event, Bernie has spoken to it, both in interviews and on social media (and in more places and ways than I can possibly link to). And then he's protested again.

I haven't been able to find complete footage of the event, but this video shows the protester's takeover and this one shows what happens when they are handed the mic. I don't know at what point Sander's rally was shut down and he decided not to speak anymore (at least, I assume that's what's implied by "shut down").

As I've said, I was sympathetic with the first event. But this one just rubbed me the wrong way. For one thing, I cannot get passed the attitudes of the protesters. The guy who takes the podium after Bernie steps back tells the protesters that he will give them the mic after Bernie has had the chance to speak. And the girls just keep screaming over him.

True, the same happened at Netroots. But I was more understanding at that point of the feeling that you have no choice but to force your way through to have your voice heard. As I said then, that's what Bernie's campaign is all about - stepping up and making yourself heard when big money won't listen. So it made sense to me that the protesters felt the need to do the same. Especially since, Bernie hadn't talked about the issue much before.

But Bernie has responded to the protest at Netroots, more so than other presidential candidate. I have no doubt that he hasn't spoken to everything the BLM movement would want him too, but he's at least shown that he's willing to respond. Why, after getting such a response from him, would they feel the need to protest again? They keep shouting over and over about not wanting to be silenced, but Bernie has already shown that he agrees with their movement and is willing to speak to the issues! Why do another protest? It just boggles my mind why some progress isn't being made here!

The question that I keep coming back to over and over again is has anyone from the Black Lives Matter movement actually tried contacting Bernie Sanders and asking for an interview or a filmed Q&A or to speak at a rally with him? Seriously, I want an answer to this because I can think of no reason for Bernie to turn such a request away. I'm certain that if contact was made, Bernie would be more than happy to have a two-way conversation where people don't have to scream over each other.

And let's say for a moment that these protesters were in fact extremists from the movement and they just organized all of this on their own. It still looks bad on the official movement. Since the Seattle protest, I have heard from a number of people who previously supported BLM and are now withdrawing that support. Like me, they can't justify this second protest that seems a blatant disregard for the fact that Bernie is willing to listen and speak to the issues. 

I'm sure there are heated emotions on both sides, from Bernie Sanders supporters and supporters of BLM. Assuming contact has not been made previously with Bernie's campaign, I hope and in fact urge that both Bernie and BLM reach out to each other to make such contact and mutually agreed meeting and talk happen. Both sides could benefit from settling the dust and opening discussion.

Black lives matter. So, let's talk about it. No one wants to see another Seattle protest.

I have written to both Bernie's campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement requesting they work toward a filmed meeting. If you'd also like to politely make such a request to mend relations, you can email Bernie's campaign at and BLM through this form.

UPDATE 8/11/15: fixed incorrect video link.

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