Democrat Hillary Clinton’s rally at a historically black college in Atlanta was interrupted Friday afternoon by about a dozen protesters who massed in front of her stage and repeatedly chanted “black lives matter.”
She was at Clark Atlanta University to call for sweeping criminal justice changes, but before she could outline her proposal the demonstrators entered through a door at the back of the school’s gym and clustered in front of the stage.
As they began chanting “black lives matter,” Clinton responded: “Yes they do – and I’m gonna talk a lot about that in a minute.”
The demonstrators continued to chant while she spoke of campaigning on a platform of “love and kindness” and living up to the ideals of racial equality championed by Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.
Influential black Atlanta leaders, including Mayor Kasim Reed and Rep. John Lewis, were seen trying to talk to some of the protesters. As attention scattered, and phones and cameras captured the demonstrators rather than the candidate, Clinton urged the demonstrators to listen.
“I have some issues and proposals to discuss if my friends will let me speak,” she said.
Shortly after, authorities led a ringleader of the protest out. The crowd of more than 1,000 students began to chant “let her speak, let her speak,” and then roared with approval when the rest were pushed out of the room.
Clinton, whose visit Friday was her first public event in Atlanta this campaign, continued speaking throughout the protest, which lasted about 10 minutes.
The irony was hard to miss. Clinton’s event was held in a building located off a street called Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard in the heart of a campus that played a critical part in the civil rights movement.
Members of the Black Lives Matter advocacy group are demanding candidates more forcefully address the racial tensions and policing practices behind the series of shooting deaths of unarmed black men by white law enforcement officers. Protesters have interrupted presidential candidates several times.
“I appreciate their passion,” Clinton said once they had departed. “But I’m sorry they didn’t listen because some of what they’re demanding, I am offering.”