Amidst boos and racial slurs were even more attendees of the social security rally standing in awe as two members of the Black Lives matter movement asked for 4 minutes of silence for Michael Brown after disrupting the Westlake Park rally in Seattle, Washington.
This was a bad PR move to say the least, but the Black Lives Matter movement is an important voice in our community fighting for real change. If they didn’t even request an interview with Sanders, then this is a major oversite.
Putting a stop to the drug war, our privatized prison system, and everything else that contributes to the racial inequality throughout this country, including in Seattle, will take a progressive president willing to implement it.
Sanders will eventually come up with a plan for prison reform and anything else the BLM movement puts forth as reasonable ideas for reform, but because Sanders didn’t say anything when put on the spot at Netroots does that mean they ought to treat interactions with him the same as they would any other candidate?
“While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city,” said BLM via press release, “this willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMattermovement in an effort to be relevant is over.”
BLM has to use these tactics in most cases just to wake people up from their media driven, fast food slumber, but a sign of cooperation with the Sanders campaign would have allowed the Senator to answer the questions in a controlled setting.
If he didn’t, the BLM movement would have come off looking totally fine in my eyes.
“I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare,” Sanders said in a statement. “I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism, there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”
Sanders has claimed solidarity with the BLM movement without any real plan being set forth or even supported, but if the BLM has a political scientist on board, their message isn’t getting out to the movement.
Those aggressive tactics are only good if no one’s caring or paying attention, once you’ve got someone’s support you speak to them about possible solutions while realizing that you’re making plans with a candidate that still needs to win the Democratic primary.
Black Lives Matter released an official statement in answer to the event:
Black Lives Matter Seattle organizers and supporters take over Bernie Sanders’ rally at Westlake on Saturday, August 8, 2015.
Today BLM Seattle, with the support of other Black organizers and non-Black allies and accomplices, held Bernie Sanders publicly accountable for his lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his blatantly silencing response to the #SayHerName #IfIDieInPoliceCustody action that took place at Netroots this year.
Bernie’s arrival in Seattle is largely significant in the context of the state of emergency Black lives are in locally as well as across America. The Seattle Police Department has been under federal consent decree for the last three years and has been continually plagued by use-of-force violations and racist scandals amongst their rank and file. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has refused to push any reform measures for police accountability, not even the numerous recommendations of his self-appointed Community Police Commission. The Seattle School District suspends Black students at a rate six times higher than their white counterparts, feeding Black children into the school-to-prison pipeline. King County has fought hard to push through a plan to build a $210 million new youth jail to imprison these children, amid intense community criticism and dissent. The Central District, a historically Black neighborhood in Seattle, has undergone rapid gentrification over the past few decades, with Black people being displaced from the only neighborhood that we could legally live in until just years ago. While white men profit off of the legalization of marijuana, our prisons are still filled with Black people who are over-incarcerated for drug offenses.
This city is filled with white progressives, which is why Bernie Sanders’ camp was obviously expecting a friendly and consenting audience for today’s campaign visit. The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMattermovement in an effort to be relevant is over. White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives. Bernie Sanders will not continue to call himself a man of the people, while ignoring the plight of Black people. Presidential candidates will not win Black votes without putting out an explicit criminal justice reform package. As was said at the Netroots action, presidential candidates should expect to be shut down and confronted every step along the way of this presidential campaign. Black people are in a state of emergency. Lines have been drawn in the sand. You are either fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America, or you are a part of the white supremacist system that we will tear down in the liberation of our people.
On this, nearly the one year anniversary of the ruthless murder of Mike Brown, we honor Black lives lost by doing the unthinkable, the unapologetic, and the unrespectable. Out of radical love for our Black brothers and sisters, we put our lives and our bodies on the line to testify to their persecution and resilience. We join together in Black love to #SayHerName and declare that #BlackLivesMatter, understanding that our love will disrupt the complicity and corruption of our anti-Black society; GOP, Democrat, and otherwise.
There is no business as usual while Black lives are lost. We will ensure this by any means necessary.
With the strength of our ancestors and for the future of our children,
Black Lives Matter Seattle Co-Founders
Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford