Over the weekend, #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupted a town hall session at the progressive-minded Netroots Nation convention in Phoenix to address the issues impacting black people in this country and call the names of women who have died in police custody. The session featured presidential hopefuls former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, and organizer Tia Oso took the stage to directly ask: “What is your agenda going to be to make sure that black lives do matter and that as a leader of this nation? Will you advance a racial justice agenda that will begin to dismantle, not reform not make progress, but begin to dismantle structural racism in this country?”
The crowd was less than satisfied with the responses, including O’Malley’s, “Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
After the event, HuffPost Live interviewed three of the organizers: Tia Oso, an organizer for the Black Alliance for Just immigration; Ashley Yates, a Black Lives Matter activist; and Patrisse Cullors, a co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and movement.
When asked if the candidates provided the responses she was looking for, Cullors said:
No, I don’t think that they were honest in their responses… Today was about holding senator Bernie sanders and former governor O’Malley accountable for what’s to come and we wanted to test them to see if they would be able to really hold their ground when we put their feet to the fire. And I was not that impressed. I think that former Gov O’Malley failed, especially when he proclaimed, ‘white lives matter.’ It’s very clear that he didn’t actually understand why we say black lives matter, and also just was very defensive. We need bold and courageous leadership right now. We don’t need people who are gonna be cowardly and people who are going to be defensive. And I think Senator Bernie Sanders had a speech already prepared, especially ‘cause he heard us shut it down back there. So he was prepared with a speech instead of really listening to our questions. And so I would give him a D-.
See the full interview and clips of the protest below.