A common critique offered against Black Lives Matter activists who have targeted and even disrupted events featuring Democratic presidential candidates — all while largely staying away from Republican events — is that the activists are going after candidates who are likely to support their cause while giving a pass to more conservative candidates. Protesters aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted appearances by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom are seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Similarly, video of a private meeting between several Black Lives Matter activists and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shows a respectful-but-often-tense conversation where the activists pressed Clinton to take more responsibility for policies she supported during her husband’s presidency that led to many African Americans being incarcerated.
In an interview with Democracy Now! on Wednesday, co-host Juan González asked Daunasia Yancey, one of the activists who met with Clinton, why the movement “has been confronting several Democratic candidates, but the Republican candidates, of which there are many more, have largely been so far unscathed on the question of answering their policy issues in terms of the black community and of police violence and on mass incarceration?” Yancey responded that the early focus on Democrats is a deliberate strategy:
Well, every presidential candidate should expect to hear from us and expect to be held accountable. It’s actually a practice called “power mapping,” where it’s similar to lobbying, where you actually map who’s closest to you on the issue and go to those folks first in order to force them to articulate their stance and then hold them accountable to it. So this movement is very strategic, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Last week, Black Lives Matter protesters did target an event featuring Republican candidate Jeb Bush, and the crowd’s reaction does indeed suggest that their protest fell upon largely deaf ears. When the protesters began a chant of “black lives matter,” some members of the audience taunted the protesters by chanting “white lives matter.”
You can watch the full interview with Yancey and one of her fellow activists here: