#BlackLivesMatter Should Be An Equal Opportunity Disruption

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Bernie Sanders gets a earful from a protester in Seattle

For the 2nd time, A Bernie Sanders rally was shut down by activists of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This time it was a rally in the supposed progressive city of Seattle. Once again the BLM people made a statement that does need to be said but I sure would like to see them shut down Republican rallies or even Hillary Clinton rallies. If they want national attention then they should be an equal opportunity disruption.

Black Lives Matter Seattle organizers and supporters take over Bernie Sanders’ rally at Westlake on Saturday, August 8, 2015.

Today BLM Seattle, with the support of other Black organizers and non-Black allies and accomplices, held Bernie Sanders publicly accountable for his lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his blatantly silencing response to the #SayHerName #IfIDieInPoliceCustody action that took place at Netroots this year.

Bernie’s arrival in Seattle is largely significant in the context of the state of emergency Black lives are in locally as well as across America. The Seattle Police Department has been under federal consent decree for the last three years and has been continually plagued by use-of-force violations and racist scandals amongst their rank and file. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has refused to push any reform measures for police accountability, not even the numerous recommendations of his self-appointed Community Police Commission. The Seattle School District suspends Black students at a rate six times higher than their white counterparts, feeding Black children into the school-to-prison pipeline. King County has fought hard to push through a plan to build a $210 million new youth jail to imprison these children, amid intense community criticism and dissent. The Central District, a historically Black neighborhood in Seattle, has undergone rapid gentrification over the past few decades, with Black people being displaced from the only neighborhood that we could legally live in until just years ago. While white men profit off of the legalization of marijuana, our prisons are still filled with Black people who are over-incarcerated for drug offenses.

This city is filled with white progressives, which is why Bernie Sanders’ camp was obviously expecting a friendly and consenting audience for today’s campaign visit. The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an effort to be relevant is over. White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives. Bernie Sanders will not continue to call himself a man of the people, while ignoring the plight of Black people. Presidential candidates will not win Black votes without putting out an explicit criminal justice reform package. As was said at the Netroots action, presidential candidates should expect to be shut down and confronted every step along the way of this presidential campaign. Black people are in a state of emergency. Lines have been drawn in the sand. You are either fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America, or you are a part of the white supremacist system that we will tear down in the liberation of our people.

On this, nearly the one year anniversary of the ruthless murder of Mike Brown, we honor Black lives lost by doing the unthinkable, the unapologetic, and the unrespectable. Out of radical love for our Black brothers and sisters, we put our lives and our bodies on the line to testify to their persecution and resilience. We join together in Black love to #SayHerName and declare that #BlackLivesMatter, understanding that our love will disrupt the complicity and corruption of our anti-Black society; GOP, Democrat, and otherwise.

There is no business as usual while Black lives are lost. We will ensure this by any means necessary.

With the strength of our ancestors and for the future of our children,

Black Lives Matter Seattle Co-Founders

Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford

PRESS RELEASE: Black Lives Matter Seattle #BowDownBernie Action

To be sure all the issues concerning race and Seattle are valid concerns that need to be addressed but I really don’t think shutting down a rally of an ally is the way to get your message across.

It’s like preaching to the choir.

Humans can multi-task. That means we can be concerned with many different issues at one time. Just because your issue may not be the top of the list doesn’t mean no one thinks it’s important or no one cares. Bernie Sanders has spoken out about justice issues much more than most 2016 candidates. He just doesn’t think that one approach like police reform is the only avenue for addressing racism.

Shutting down a liberal or progressive rally isn’t much of a challenge either, but it seems to happen more often because they are open to the public, and most liberals really fear confrontations especially if it is people they normally support.

I would love to see #BlackLivesMatter activists shut down GOP rallies or even rallies for Hillary Clinton or at least challenge them when they come to town to speak. Then the line: “We join together in Black love to #SayHerName and declare that #BlackLivesMatter, understanding that our love will disrupt the complicity and corruption of our anti-Black society; GOP, Democrat, and otherwise“, will be true.


*Update* Although I read it while composing this post, the Sanders campaign promoted, at a speech in Portland on Sunday 08/09, a detailed plan to address violence against persons of color including police and economic racism. Based on how much detail is in the plan it was probably meant to be released about this time and the Seattle protest, most likely, had nothing to do with it.

Also there has been some push back at people, like me, who criticized the protest. The complaint is that white people have no right to tell people of color how they should protest. That kind of complaint is meant to silence white people and is just as wrong as if it was the other way around. I have a view point on the protest and I expressed that view. You can agree with it or not, I don’t care, but you can’t tell me what I can and can’t say.

I know people of color have to use the protest to get heard, but like with the theists I deal with more often than not, you can’t be immune to criticism. That is not how exchanging ideas and debate work.


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