Two U.S. presidential candidates were forced to leave the stage Saturday after “Black Lives Matter” chants consistently interrupted their political speeches.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had to cut their political speeches short at the Netroots Nation conference on Saturday, as the audience demanded immediate attention to the perilous lives of Black people in the U.S.
MSNBC reported that in a conversation with journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, O’Malley was interrupted by “black lives matter” and “say her name” chants. When O’Malley was eventually given the chance to speak on the criminal justice system, he was once again interrupted.
In the midst of the mayhem, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patriss Cullors was invited to join the stage.
“It’s not like we like shutting s**t down, but we have to,” Cullors said according to MSNBC. “Every single day folks are dying. Not being able to take another breath. We are in a state of emergency.”
"Say Her Name" chant resumes. "We want you to center blackness right now." #nn15townhall— Arturo R. Garcia (@aboynamedart) July 18, 2015
Caring about the black vote & caring about black people are two entirely separate things.— Suburban White Boi (@NewJusticeDept) July 18, 2015
“I know, I know … Let me talk a little bit … Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter,” O’Malley said to the disapproval of many who continued booing him until he left the stage.
The protest comes after black anti-racist activist Sandra Bland was found dead under questionable circumstances in a Texas jail on Monday after being arrested for a traffic violation. Saturday also saw mass protests to mark the first anniversary of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the police.
Sanders, who took the stage shortly after, was met with similar chants by the audience.
“Black lives of course matter but I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK,” Sanders said. “I don’t want to out-scream people.”
Presidential candidates that are unable to coherently speak to the issues of state violence are unworthy of our vote.— deray mckesson (@deray) July 19, 2015
When Sanders sought to continue his political speech, he was overpowered by activists chanting, “I want Bernie Sanders to say my name.”
Sanders gave into the pressure and found a moment to affirm that “Black people are dying in this country because we have a criminal justice system which is out of control, a system in which over 50 percent of young African-American kids are unemployed.”
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn, issued a statement which said:
“The presidential candidates’ responses today to the powerful protest led by Black activists at Netroots Nation … make clear that all Democratic candidates have work to do in understanding and addressing the movement for Black lives.”