Black Lives Matter: 'We will continue to engage the candidates'

Black Lives Matter activists say they will continue to engage the 2016 presidential candidates and push their agenda of curbing police violence as the country moves further into election season.

In the past month, Black Lives Matter has made prominent appearances at campaign rallies for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), as well as holding a “tense” meeting with democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“We will continue to engage the candidates and give them access to a broad cross section of ideas from folks in the movement,” Sam Sinyangwe, a member of the planning committee for Campaign Zero, told Business Insider. “Ultimately, they are aiming to be presidents of the United States and they need to be responsive to their constituents so that is something that we and a number of others will continue to hold them accountable to.”

Campaign Zero is a 10-point policy platform created by Black Lives Matter activists aimed at ending police violence through limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.

“Campaign Zero is indicative of an attitude that activists and community members across the Black Lives Matter movement share,” said Brittany Packnett, another planning committee member for Campaign Zero.

“Our votes are not guaranteed for anyone and we fully believe they should be earned. So ensuring that candidates come forth with specific, actionable, timely, urgent plans to make changes to protect the lives of marginalized people is what we require through Campaign Zero and through efforts yet to come.”

Black Lives Matter Martin O'MalleyRoss D. FranklinAs dozens protesters shout, Tia Oso of the National Coordinator for Black Immigration Network, center, walks up on stage interrupting Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley

In terms of a specific strategy to engage candidates, Sinyangwe and Packnett say they are biding their time.

“We will continue to take time to strategize, be thoughtful, and I would say that the engagement that people have seen isn’t altogether different from the way that presidential campaigns are still formulating their strategy, taking the pulse of communities, being thoughtful about how to engage,” said Packnett. “
And so we are still in the very early stages of the presidential campaign, and so I think you will continue to see engagement as these campaigns continue to take form.”

When asked about the Black Lives Matter activists who took over the stage at campaign events for O’Malley and Sanders, Packnett said they are “representative of the urgency of the issue of protecting against and saving black lives and American lives from consistent police violence.”

In terms of candidates who aren’t making police violence a priority, the activists were critical of the GOP.

“This has not been part of the conversation for all but one of the GOP presidential candidates (referencing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul) and I think that is really unfortunate and quite frankly, I would hope that conversations begin very soon given the growing and critical conversation that I think America is finally waking up to on race,” Packnett said.

“It is telling that certain candidates have proposed agendas and it is time to see agendas from candidates who have not,” Sinyangwe added.

The activists also said it would be difficult for them to support a candidate who did not embrace Campaign Zero.

“I think it would be very difficult for me,” Packnett said. “I would have to understand why exactly they think we would be able to end police violence without at the least adopting these 10 points.”

“I think that it will behoove every single candidate to take this issue seriously,” she added.

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