PHILADELPHIA — After having only a small presence last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, several hundred demonstrators aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement hit the streets here on Tuesday to raise their concerns about police brutality and send a message to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton: She has much work to do to earn their votes.
Carrying homemade placards and flags, the racially and ethnically diverse crowd — which marched from Temple University in North Philadelphia to City Hall and planned to march several miles further to the edge of the arena where the Democratic National Convention is being held — criticized Clinton for not speaking more forcefully on the issue of police brutality.
“We are not satisfied at all with what we’ve seen from the candidates,” said Asa Khalif, an activist with the group that helped organize the rally. “I think black people are waking up and realizing the Clintons can’t sway us with delusions of grandeur.”
From a microphone in the back of a pick-up truck, speakers took turns urging the crowd to focus on the plight of minorities — black, brown and indigenous people — who have been killed in confrontations with police. Dozens in the crowd held signs with the names of men, women and children who were killed in police-involved shootings.
Some of the victims, such as Walter Scott, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, have become familiar names in the movement. But the protesters also paid tribute to young black men like Clarence Howard, 22, who was fatally shot in June by an off-duty Brevard County, Fla., deputy sheriff in an alleged road rage incident.
“Hillary Clinton has had a perfect opportunity in the last two or three weeks to say, ‘Hey, Black Lives Matter to me, and here is my platform,'” Newsome said. “She’s done nothing more that make some vague statements and tweets.”
“I’m here because it’s important that people know what we are concerned about and that fair treatment, regardless of who you are or what you look like,” said Chris Rogers, 27, a local public school teacher.
Clinton fared well in the primaries among African-American voters. But Asa Khalif, an organizer with the Philly Coalition for Real Justice, said the demonstrators wanted to send a message to Clinton that she is in danger of losing the support of members who are aligned with the movement.
Khalif criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that was signed into law by her husband. He also charged that the Democratic Party largely ignored the Black Lives Matter movement as the party put together its convention platform.
Khalif said some of Clinton’s rhetoric on the campaign trail has been patronizing, noting her comments to a black radio show host in April in which she said she always keeps hot sauce in her purse.
“We remember that her husband created a bill that generationally continues to harm black and brown families,” Khalif said. “We know what the true Hillary Clinton is, not the one all made up in a blue suit on asking for black people to vote and saying she has hot sauce in her pocketbook.”
Clinton hasn’t entirely ignored the issue and has spoken on the stump of the need for reform to repair the broken trust of law enforcement community. She has also met with several African-American mothers who have lost their children in incidents involving law enforcement officials, and she won the endorsement of the mother of Sandra Bland, 28, who died in police custody in Waller County, Texas, days after she was arrested by a state trooper during a routine traffic stop.
Several mothers of the movement, including those of Bland and Michael Brown, who was killed in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., appeared on stage at the convention Tuesday to show their support for Clinton. They were greeted by the delegates and others in the convention hall with chants of “Black Lives Matter.”
“She knows that when a young black life is cut short, it is not just a loss,” said Gloria Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother. “It’s a personal loss. It’s a national loss. It is a loss that diminishes all of us.”
Khalif, who organized Tuesday’s demonstration, said Republican nominee Donald Trump is a “racist bigot” who won’t win votes from his community. He added that Clinton still has a chance to keep young black voters from casting ballots elsewhere or sitting out the election.
For starters, Khalif said he wants Clinton to specifically make it clear that she will expect authorities to fire and prosecute police officers who are captured on video shooting unarmed men and women.
“This is her last shot to bring those of us over who do not think she has our best interest at heart,” Khalif said. “It is the right stand to take, and it’s not anti-police. You should want anyone who breaks the law to go to jail.”
At one point during Tuesday’s march, about 30 police officers stood silently as a black protester walked over and wrote in chalk “F— the Police,” with an arrow pointing to the officers.
A man wearing a Blue Lives Matter shirt stood in front of the police, as protesters walked from their gathering spot a few yards away to yell at him and argue. Protesters came to defend both sides, pouring water over the chalk message as police remained silent.
Ramil Carr, 31, a Philadelphia freelance photographer who took part in the protest, said the convention represented the “perfect opportunity” to call attention to persistent issues of racism and poverty.
“I don’t think they are talking about those things (at the convention), so we are,” Carr said.
Sourrce: USA Today