Footage shows Black Lives Matter activists confronting Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton told Black Lives Matter activists her priority was to change laws, not hearts, after two confronted her at a campaign event with accusations that she was, in part, personally responsible for the mass incarceration of black Americans, footage released on Monday reveals.
The awkward exchange event was captured by a cellphone camera, and activists shared the video with MSNBC. Massachusetts activists had arrived at the New Hampshire event to confront the Democratic presidential frontrunner as other protesters had confronted her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, earlier this month.
“I don’t believe you change hearts, you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate,” Clinton told Julius Jones, a Worcester, Massachusetts, activist.
“You’re not going to change every heart, you’re not,” she continued, stepping closer and pointing with both hands at Jones. “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.
“So we can do it one of many ways. You can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation. We will not have all of the changes that you deserve to see happen in your lifetime because of your willingness to get out there and talk about this.”
Barred from entry by staff who said the event was full, activists managed to enter after campaign staffers arranged a meeting with Clinton backstage. There the activists told Clinton that “more than most” she and her family had been responsible for policies that led to mass incarceration.
Clinton said she felt strongly about police behavior, drug laws and criminal justice reform, but offered no specifics about what she would change or even how her own ideas had changed over the years. “There’s a lot of concern that we need to rethink and redo what we did in response to a different set of problems,” she said.
“There was a different set of concerns back in the 80s and early 90s and now I believe we have to look at the world as it is and figure out what will work now.”
The activists pressed the issue, blaming Clinton for the 1990s policies of her husband Bill Clinton. In April the former president admitted that policies he implemented put “too many people in prison for too long” and “overshot the mark”. His “tough-on-drugs” policies contributed in large part to the increase of the US prison population from 847,000 to 1,334,000 by the end of his eight years in office.
Speaking to Hillary Clinton, the activists alluded to these policies, and later noted that during those years the federal government spent bn to build prisons and divested bn from housing. They then pressed Clinton for reflection on the issue.
“What in you, not your platform, not what you’re supposed to say, how do you actually feel that’s different than you did before?” asked Julius Jones, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Worcester.
“What were your mistakes and how could those mistakes that you made be lessons for all of America?”
At this tense moment a Clinton campaign staffer interrupted to tell the activists their time was running out. Clinton aide Huma Abedin also interjected to observe that the room was at overflow capacity. Finally, the candidate responded to the question: “It’s a very thoughtful question and deserves a thoughtful answer.
“I feel very committed to and responsible for doing whatever I can. I have spent most of my adult life focused on kids through the Children’s Defense Fund and other efforts to try to give kids, particularly poor kids, particularly black and Hispanic kids, the same chance to live up to their own God-given potential as any other kid.
“I think that there has to be a reckoning, I agree with that, but I also think there also has to be some positive vision and plan that you can move people toward.”
Clinton did not elaborate on that plan in the released footage, and Boston organizer Daunasia Yancey told MSNBC that “her response targeting on policy wasn’t sufficient for us”.
“At the same time she was also ducking personal responsibility for the role that her and her family played in it too,” Jones added.
Clinton also faces criticism for shirking responsibility for 305 emails flagged for investigation in the private email account she used as secretary of state. The emails may have contained classified information or require review, State Department lawyers said Monday. An auditor found two emails with “top secret” information among the exchanges between last week.
The FBI is investigating the security of Clinton’s personal email server. Clinton herself is not under investigation and maintains no wrongdoing, telling reporters in late July: “I am confident that I never sent or received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received.”
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