Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton sat down with Black Lives Matter activists on Friday for a what one of the attendees described as a “candid” conversation about institutional racism.
For approximately an hour in Washington on Friday, a coalition of activists from the movement met with Clinton to discuss a variety of issues affecting the black community — including the militarization of police, violence against black members of the LGBT community, and the so-called “school-to-prison” pipeline.
Johnetta Elzie, who focuses on police militarization and violence, attended the meeting. She told Business Insider that while the conversation was frank and productive, Clinton didn’t always have direct answers to questions posed by different attendees.
“Hillary is a good listener. But she still has lots of room to grow when it comes to listening to black people actually talk about the issues that are affecting them, vs. how she perceives the issues to affect us,” Elzie said.
Organisers, who said they were approached by Clinton’s campaign for a meeting, spent weeks combing through years of Clinton’s statements on racial inequality, criminal justice, and mass incarceration in preparation.
Though Elzie said Clinton was light on specifics, the former secretary of state did list some proposals she supports. Clinton also said she will release a detailed platform to address racial injustice in the near future, according to Elzie.
Clinton was particularly articulate about a key policy ambition of the movement — ending the militarization of the police, wherein police departments receiving high-grade gear from the Department of Homeland Security.
Cherno Biko, a transgender-rights activist who also attended Friday’s meeting, told Business Insider that Clinton committed to ending federal funding for private prisons and suggested potential changes to sentencing laws for marijuana possession and sex work.
Biko also told Business Insider that Clinton didn’t mince her words when addressing violence against transgender women of colour.
“Hillary said that the violence against trans women of colour was a national crisis,” Biko told Business Insider in an email.
Clinton praised Biko toward the end of the meeting.
“I’ll tell you, you’re a better person than me, wanting to love folks who kill people. Listen, I can forgive them, but I can’t love them,” Clinton told Biko, according to a video taken by one of the participants.
Clinton has been careful to avoid the mistakes that her fellow Democratic opponents have run into when confronted by Black Lives Matter activists. Earlier this year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) both faced criticism for their failure to speak out forcefully against police violence when approached by the activists at campaign events earlier this year.
Clinton has so far skirted public confrontation with Black Lives Matter activists, though she had an occasionally tense meeting with several activists who met with her at an event in New Hampshire.
Despite though activists displayed a tone of encouragement after meeting with Clinton, many of Friday’s participants are far from ready to endorse her.
Elzie and Biko said that they are still waiting to hear more specifics about how Clinton will actually implement the changes she proposed in the meeting.
“She hasn’t earned my endorsement yet, but I’m looking forward to her releasing a racial justice platform in the coming weeks,” Biko said.
Another activist in the meeting also appeared sceptical on Twitter of Clinton’s responses, and referenced one of the former secretary of state’s potential rivals: Vice President Joe Biden.
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