Activists Proclaim "Black Lives Matter" at Netroots Nation Presidential Forum

Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders sat down with activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas at a Netroots Nation Presidential Forum and were interrupted by activists who shut the forum down to force the candidates to address the brutality Black women and men face at the hands of law enforcement.

Former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor, O’Malley took the stage first. Dozens of Black Lives Matter activists stopped his question and answer session 20 minutes in, by walking into the space singing, “What side are you on? Black people, what side are you on?”

Tia Oso of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, was able to take the stage and delivered a speech explaining why the demonstration had to take place.
"We are going to hold this space. We are going to acknowledge the names of black women who have died in police custody. And Governor O'Malley, we do have questions for you. As the leader of this nation, will you advance a racial justice agenda that will dismantle, not reform, not make progress, but will begin to dismantle structural racism in the United States?"
Activist and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors also took the stage and told the crowd, “It’s not like we like shutting shit down but we have to,” before asking O’Malley what he would do the address the problem of police brutality. 

"I believe every police department in America should have to report in an open and transparent way all police-involved shootings, all discourtesy complaints, all brutality complaints,” O’Malley responded. He went on to say, “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter,” which resulted in heavy boos from the activists.

As apart of the action, the activists recited the names of women who have died in police custody, as well as a call and repeat of various responses to "If I die in police in custody."

The demonstration continued when Sanders took the stage.

Sanders quickly dismissed the demonstration and threatened to leave. "Black lives, of course, matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity," he said. "But if you don't want me to be here, that's OK. I don't want to outscream people."

He went on to address the issue, focusing on economic inequality.
“When we talk about issues like ‘black lives matter,’ let me tell you something, a study came out a few weeks ago talking about youth unemployment in America, an issue we do not deal with as a nation. And here’s what, here’s what that said. What that report said is that if you are a high school graduate and you’re white, the unemployment rate is 33 percent. If you are Hispanic, the unemployment rate is 36 percent; if you are African-American, the unemployment rate is 51 percent. And in my view maybe, just maybe, it is time we invest in jobs and education not in jails and incarceration.”
View the entire forum below. Activist Tia Oso comes on stage at 23:00.

The women, Patrisse Cullors, Ashley Yates, and Tia Oso, talked to HuffPost Live about their activism.

Image: AP Photo


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