KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Hillary Clinton and Black Lives Matter activists had a frank and at times tense discussion last week behind closed doors. And thanks to video released Monday, the American public is now hearing exactly what the two sides said to each other.
Throughout the 15-minute conversation, Clinton disagreed with the three activists from Black Lives Matter who had planned to publicly press the 2016 candidate on issues on mass incarceration at an event earlier this month in Keene, New Hampshire.
The 2016 candidate even gave suggestions to the activists, telling them that without a concrete plan their movement will get nothing but “lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it.”
“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said, arguing that the movement can’t change deep seated racism. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we could do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them, to live up to their own God-given potential.”
Clinton met with the Black Lives Matter members on Aug. 11 after the group of activists were not allowed into the presidential candidate’s forum on substance abuse. The protesters showed up shortly before the event started and, according to the Clinton campaign, were not allowed into the main event because the room has been shut down by the local fire marshal. A Secret Service agent told CNN at the time that they had also closed the door on any more people coming into the event.
But the Clinton campaign reached out to the would-be protesters and set up time for them to meet Clinton after the event in an overflow room. Media was initially going to be let in, but the activists asked for the event not to be recorded, so Clinton’s team never pressed the issue with them, according to a campaign spokesman.
The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”
Clinton also told the protestors that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.
“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”
The activists did not appear to be won over by their conversation with Clinton.
Yancey told reporters earlier this month that she never heard “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence” and that Clinton “gave the answer she wanted to give.”
Two of the activists shared their disappointment with Clinton’s response on CNN on Tuesday.
“Her policy response — if it’s not addressing the anti-blackness inherent in some of the previous polices, we’re just going to see that thread continue,” Yancey said. “And that’s what we’re looking to hear. What’s shifted? What’s changed for Hillary Clinton that’s going to make us believe that she’s going to take this country in a different direction in terms of race?”
Julius Jones, founder of Black Lives Matter Worcester, said that activists look forward to discussing their concerns with other presidential candidates in the future.