Students representing the #AUCShutItDown collective interrupted Hillary Clinton’s rally on Friday at Atlanta’s historically-black Clark Atlanta University—and earned criticism from Usher and Rep. John Lewis in the process.
The group takes its name from the Atlanta University Center consortium, which includes Clark Atlanta University and fellow historically-black institutions Spelman College and Morehouse College. According to reports from CNN and Atlanta BlackStar, students disrupted the rally with chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Hell You Talm Bout” while Clinton supporters chanted back “Let her talk!” and “Hillary, Hillary!”
The protesters were quickly escorted out of the building. As seen in the video below, R&B star and Atlanta resident Usher tried to confront the protesters alongside politicians and clergy in attendence, challenging their methods and saying that Clinton was actually addressing racial justice:
— #AUCShutItDown (@AUCShutItDown) October 30, 2015
U.S. Representative and legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairman John Lewis, who introduced Clinton at the rally and put his hands on at least one protester’s shoulders while attempting to escort them out, also expressed criticism of the students involved, saying that it was “unfortunate that [the protesters] didn’t listen to the Secretary.”
According to a statement sent to Colorlines following the disruption, the group was protesting the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s seeming inaction and lack of clarity in her racial justice platform, as well as her previous support of policies that negatively and disproportionately affected black people:
Hillary Clinton’s position on the value of black lives has been expressed in private conversations, on Twitter and in abstract. We mean to force her to confront these issues explicitly in her platform and through policy. Because the State is determined to exterminate black bodies by any means, we need a candidate willing to protect us by any means. We will not endorse or tolerate a candidate who exploits our spaces, our voices and lived experiences to gain merit with the black elite of Atlanta. We are products of the state-sanctioned trauma Hillary Clinton has previously supported through legislation that forced black bodies into the United States Prison Plantation System. Legislation that enabled broken windows policing, school to prison incarceration, racial profiling, school resource segregation and mandatory minimum sentencing CANNOT end through rhetoric.
Avery Jackson, one of the protest’s organizers, spoke later to Don Lemon about the disruption. In spite of Lemon’s protests about their effectiveness and methods, Jackson stated that Clinton and others were ”pushing a monolithic image of what it means to be black.”
Meanwhile, Clinton used the rally to address her racial justice platform—one informed by meetings with Black Lives Matter Network members—referring to the protesters on more than one occassion while talking about African Americans who have died in police custody:
So I’m sorry, I appreciate their passion, but I’m sorry they didn’t listen because some of what they’ve been demanding I am offering and intend to fight for as president. For example, I will make sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are not used to buy weapons of war that have no place on the streets of our country.
I will also work to make sure every police department in the country has body cameras that will help protect good people on both sides of the lens. I am also renewing my call that I started as a senator for the end to racial profiling across America once and for all. And as president I will work with Congress to pass legislation to ban racial profiling by federal, state and local law enforcement. It is wrong. It is demeaning, and it does not keep us safe or help solve crimes. It’s time to put that practice behind us.