“Black Lives Matter” activists have begun to turn up the heat on Republican candidates.
At a campaign event in Nevada on Wednesday, protesters interrupted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). They chanted, “Black lives matter,” as Bush made a quick exit from the stage.
The event marked the first time that Black Lives Matter protesters have targeted a major Republican presidential candidate’s campaign event, after weeks trailing Democratic candidates — especially Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on the trail.
Though Bush did not engage with the protesters, Bush’s campaign told CNN he met with advocates before his event.
In response to the protesters, event attendees began chanting, “White lives matter,” in response. Protesters and attendees then reportedly gave each other respective middle fingers as Bush’s event ended without a closing statement.
Over the past month, “Black Lives Matter” protesters have set their sights on liberal and left-leaning presidential candidates, hoping to expose racial biases in the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party and push candidates to address social-justice issues head on.
Protesters have targeted Democrats specifically because some feel that their voices have been taken for granted on the left.
“For decades the Democratic Party based their strategy on [the] assumption of receiving the black vote without accountability to black voters. But the youth have found their voice, and found that their voice is strong,” prominent activist Zellie Imani told Business Insider last month.
Sanders has been interrupted multiple times by protesters, who have said that the senator needs to be held accountable for not adequately engaging with the movement.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) also quickly apologised last month after saying that “all lives matter,” a response that many activists see as dismissive of the disproportionate levels of violence that black Americans suffer in interactions with the police.
But though Democrats have mostly been deferential to protesters in the movement, Republican candidates may have a tougher time honing a message that resonates with the activists. Several GOP candidates have dismissed the “black lives matter” slogan, saying that its not inclusive.
When asked about O’Malley’s apology to protesters, Bush said O’Malley didn’t need to apologise.
“No, for crying out loud, no. We’re so uptight and so politically correct now that we apologise for saying lives matter?” Bush said last month.
“Should he have apologised? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn’t apologise to a group that seems to disagree with it.”
At a rally to defund Planned Parenthood, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also appeared confused by the specifics of the movement.
“Of course all lives matter. I don’t want to get into it, it’s so silly,” Carson said. “Black lives are part of all lives, right?”
Candidates from both parties have attempted to diffuse tensions by meeting with protesters in private. In the last week, Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have met with protesters to talk about their concerns.
But it seems unlikely that closed-door meetings will placate the entirety of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Members of the movement, which is not hierarchical, have so far been fairly unimpressed by responses from presidential candidates.
“No candidate, Democratic or Republican, will campaign without having to publicly address their position sooner of later on their campaign trail,” Imani told Business Insider.
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