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DeRay McKesson Says Black Voters Not Yet Sold on Clinton

  • A leader of the Black Lives Matter DeRay Mckesson

    A leader of the Black Lives Matter DeRay Mckesson | Photo: AFP

Published 1 July 2016

Activist warns of convention protests, low voter turnout in November.

Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay Mckesson warned that if Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton does not endorse raising the federal minimum wage and reforming the criminal justice, African-American protesters may sit-in at the Democratic National Convention next month, while African-American voters may sit out the general election.

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In an exclusive interview with USA Today published June 29, McKesson said that activists were prepared to protest the Democratic National Convention this month, similar to Congressional Democrats' demonstration on the House floor last month to demand legislative action on gun control. Specifically, he said that activists wanted the convention platform to endorse a $15 minimum wage, strengthen the Justice Department's oversight of local police agencies, and curb civil forfeiture laws that permit law enforcement to seize private property.

McKesson was one of several Black Lives Matter activists to meet with Clinton last fall to discuss their concerns. While crediting her for making strides on the issues important to African-Americans, he said it was insufficient to woo black votes. 

"It took a lot of pressure for her to address race —​ like, more pressure than we would think a president in a country where race is such a central topic should take," he said. "So that's like a symbol. I think it bleeds into so many other things. So you think about, what does it mean that you have to sort of fight a nominee to come out with a criminal-justice platform, to come out with a platform about racial inequality, to come out and talk about these things?

In a recent interview with teleSUR, historian Donna Murch highlighted the devastating impacts of Hillary Clinton’s economic and social policies on Black communities. In particular, Murch cited Clinton's role in expanding the prison-industrial complex with mass incarceration policies that have been highly destructive for African-Americans.

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While first lady, Hillary was intimately involved in policy development during her husband’s term, Murch said. 

During his administration, Clinton passed a law known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which lead to the disproportionate incarceration of Black people through the creation of new federal crimes, mandated life sentences, and the expansion of police and prisons. 

Despite such a toxic legacy, Hillary Clinton has enjoyed wide support from African-American voters, particularly in Southern primaries. But McKesson said that he told her in their meeting last year that primary support would not necessarily translate into a win in the general election.

"I said, 'Hillary, I worry that you are underestimating how many people plan to sit this out because they are disillusioned,'" he said. "And if the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and if Hillary's camp don't help people see her as a real choice, despite their misgivings about her, I think this will be more of an uphill battle than it already is." 

Mckesson said protests were likely at both the major party conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia this summer and in the run-up to the Nov. 8 presidential election.

"What's real about Hillary is she will not be able to govern without a coalition of people of color," he said. "She won't be able to get elected without Black people or Latinos. She won't be able to govern without them.” 

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In a June 30 Mother Jones article, Jocelyn Rosnick of the Ohio National Lawyers Guild said that police have turned up unannounced at the Cleveland-area homes of several activists connected to Black Lives Matter and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Cleveland is the site of the GOP National Convention later this month. 

Black Lives Matter first came to national prominence following the 2014 shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Nearly two years later, about four in 10 Blacks are doubtful that the U.S. will ever achieve racial equality, according to a Pew Research Survey released on Tuesday. The detailed report found that Black people, far more than whites, say they are treated unfairly in any number of ways, from dealings with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage.

Thinking about "sitting out" the election? Vote Green (Jill Stein). You get a president willing to act progressively on your issues. Even if Trump wins, at least America will stop spending billions on foreign wars. Clinton means nothing changes...
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