On Wednesday night, Black Lives Matter protesters made good on their promise to keep the heat on presidential candidates, turning their sights on Jeb Bush (R). At a rally in North Las Vegas, Nevada, protesters called on Bush to speak out about racial injustice. At the end of the event, the protesters chanted “black lives matter,” which was quickly met with “white lives matter” and “all lives matter” chants.
Black Lives Matter advocates asked the presidential hopeful how he personally connects to matters of race in justice, after he said, “we have serious problems and these problems have gotten worse in the last few years. Communities, people no longer trust the basic institutions in our society that they need to trust to create, to make things work.”
After the activists asked him to elaborate, he responded, “I relate to it by running for president to try and create a climate where there is civility and understanding and to encourage mayors, leaders at the local level to engage so that there is not despair and isolation in communities.”
Prior to the town hall, several BLM activists had a private discussion with the presidential hopeful. And later in the evening, the Bush campaign released an official statement about demonstration.
“Governor Bush met with Black Lives Matter advocates tonight ahead of his event in Las Vegas on issues including criminal justice reform. As Governor Bush laid out in his speech to the Urban League, he is committed to campaigning across the nation as he seeks the presidency, talking to everyone and every community about his vision for restoring opportunity for all Americans,” it reads. “Governor Bush’s goal is to unite Americans, not divide them, and that begins with having open, candid conversations with all voters. Gov Bush listened to the group and they discussed barriers to upward mobility in this country, and ways to overcome them as a community by starting to get a few things right in government.”
But just weeks earlier, Bush was taking a different tone about the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to BLM activists’ protest at Netroots Nation, Bush said no one should have to apologize for saying “all lives matter.’ He also blamed the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore on a lack of mentoring in those communities.
Bush has thus far managed to dodge questions about his record on racial inequality as governor. Bush signed the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law that ultimately allowed George Zimmerman to go free for killing 16-year-old Trayvon Martin. He also used an executive order to end affirmative action at Florida’s public universities in 1999, a move that has decimated black enrollment. He also oversaw a voter purge ahead of the deeply contested 2000 election that disproportionately removed black voters.