After The New Republic on Tuesday preemptively reported that a small number of Black Lives Matter activists were on their way to a Hillary Clinton campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire, the potential protest against the leading Democratic presidential candidate never took place because security at the event barred the group entry.
Instead of having the opportunity to confront Clinton in a public setting—such as those recently faced by candidate Bernie Sanders—the five activists from Massachusetts, including Black Lives Matter Boston founder Daunasia Yancey, were ushered into an overflow room to watch the event and later treated to a closed-door meeting with Clinton to which reporters were not allowed.
According to TNR:
When they arrived at today’s Clinton event, which focused on substance abuse and the heroin epidemic, after first sharing their talking points and questions exclusively with the New Republic, the activists found the entrances closed by U.S. Secret Service who said the venue was at capacity. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who was in contact with the five activists, later told the New Republic that the activists were eventually let into an “overflow room.” Following the event, Clinton met with the group for about 15 minutes in a private meeting that they claim turned contentious at times, and featured Clinton giving unsolicited advice for the direction of the movement.
The group's remarks and questions varied a bit from the script they prepared, which focused on criminal justice policies Clinton had supported while her husband was president, but not in tone. "I asked specifically about her and her family's involvement in the War on Drugs at home and abroad, and the implications that has had on communities of color and especially black people in terms of white supremacist violence," Yancey told me in an interview after the meeting. "And I wanted to know how she felt about her involvement in those processes.”
Asked whether Clinton actually proposed policies in the meeting, Jones said, "Not that I recall, no. In fact, I know that she didn’t because she was projecting that what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do is X,Y, and Z—to which we pushed back [to say] that it is not her place to tell the Black Lives Matter movement or black people what to do, and that the real work doesn’t lie in the victim-blaming that that implies. And that was a rift in the conversation." Jones said that the meeting concluded without any aggression, and that the meeting was "respectful."
In a tweet, Black Lives Movement-Boston characterized their failed attempt to protest the event a success because they had "gotten the attention of [Clinton's campaign] staff" and "now they are working with us."
However, in response to that tweet, others were questioning that narrative:
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— Thomas Ates (@AtesTommy) August 11, 2015
@BLM_Boston Clarify what you mean by working with you all? How so?
— Johnny E. Williams (@jwillia2) August 11, 2015
— james d. pitley (@jamesdpitley) August 11, 2015
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) August 11, 2015
In the aftermath of BLM protests against Sanders last month at NetRootsNation, a national gathering of mostly liberal Democratic voices, it was suggested by some critics that while Sanders—the longest-serving Independent in Congress, a self-described socialist, and the most progressive Democratic presidential candidate with a long record of fighting for economic, social, and racial justice—was loudly confronted by activists, Clinton has been noticeably spared (or masterfully avoided) the media spectacle of such confrontations. Going further, Bruce Dixon, co-editor of the Black Agenda Report, argued that what happened at Net Roots had "ominous" implications for some Black Lives Matters activists and the Democratic Party machine:
Last month folks whom [Black Lives Matter co-founder] Alicia Garza described as “part of our team” disrupted two minor white male candidates at NetRootsNation, the annual networking event for paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, embarrassing them with demands over structural racism and “say her name”. If they were positioning themselves for careers inside the far-flung Democratic party apparatus, it was a smart move, because Hillary wasn't there. Hence they got noticed in that crowd of Democrat operatives without antagonizing the people with the real money and connections.
Strikingly, neither the Clinton campaign nor the Black Lives Matter activists themselves on Tuesday appear to have made strong efforts to have the private meeting covered by the national press gathered at the event. According to CNN:
Initially, the meeting between Clinton and the protesters was going to be covered by pooled members of the media, but Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton's campaign, said the #BlackLivesMatter protesters asked for the event not to be recorded by the media once they were informed journalists would be let in. Members of the media were never in the room with Clinton and the protesters.
A Clinton aide said the protesters asked those in the room to stop recording and photographing during the first moments of their meeting with Clinton. Because of that, the aide said, the campaign did not escort anyone else in after that.
But Yancey cast doubt on the Clinton campaign's reason for journalist not being let in after the event.
"We said that we did not want to take a photo with her," Yancey said. "The only thing that we were asked about was whether we wanted to include photos."
When asked whether they were asked to allow members of the media in, Yancey said, "Nope, we were not asked that."
The #BlackLivesMatter members filmed their meeting with Clinton, however, and plan to put the video out.
As of this writing, the video has yet to be released, though the group, in a tweet, said it would be posted as soon as it's ready.