Sanders and #BlackLivesMatter

August 9, 2015 0 By Michael
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) politely surrenders microphone to #BlackLivesMatter protesters during a campaign stop in Seattle, Washington on August 8, 2015. Photo Credits: The Hill

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) politely surrenders microphone to #BlackLivesMatter protesters during a campaign stop in Seattle, Washington on August 8, 2015.
Photo Credits: The Hill

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)  and #BlackLivesMatter, what is the point? I am just wondering, what is the point?

Sanders is perhaps the most progressive candidate for the Democratic nomination since Bobby Kennedy’s quest for the nomination in 1968, ended when Kennedy was assassinated.

Sanders has been hounded by the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. On Saturday, two members of the #BlackLivesMatter group shut-down a Sanders’ campaign rally in Seattle, Washington.

Sanders was scheduled to speak at a gathering observing the 80th anniversary of the enactment of the Social Security Act and the 50th anniversary of the commencement of medicare.  Both issue are important to “Baby Boomers,” but not in the short term, important to Millennials.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011.  Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP's attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011. Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP’s attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Two young millennials  took the microphone and would not allow Sanders to speak until after they lectured the gray haired congressman on issues involving racism in the Seattle Police Department.

Their antics are as archaic and obnoxious as Donald Trump’s triade to Megyn Kelly during the first Republican debate in Cleveland last week; but potentially far more harmful to the progressive causes they seek to promote.

The politics of #BlackLivesMatter has been on my mind for a solid year.  I have followed the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement with much interest and much anticipation. For years, I had hope that a new cadre of young freedom fighters, would rise up,who were willing to get in the way of the status quo.

What drew my attention to the enormous potential of this movement for social and legal justice was a tweet sent out by Aurille Lucier, a 20 year-old Atlanta woman, who simply wanted to  make a statement over the manner in which Michael Brown was gunned down in the middle of a Ferguson, Missouri street.

Aurielle Lucier, 20 year-old Atlanta spoken word artist is the new face of protest in the #BlackLivesMatters Movement. Photo Credits: Creative Loafing/Joeff Davis

Aurielle Lucier, 20 year-old Atlanta spoken word artist is the new face of protest in the #BlackLivesMatters Movement.
Photo Credits: Creative Loafing/Joeff Davis

Lucier  courageously asked for 10 people to join her in a protest on Interstate 20, near Atlanta’s downtown connector, which funnels traffic to both Interstate 75 and 85. She was willing to make a statement with only ten people. From that one tweet 5000 people showed up. They shut I-20 down. This turnout of young people captured an old community organizer’s attention.

I spent a significant portion of my book, Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System (Cascade Publishing House, 2015), explaining the generational divide between “Baby Boomers” and “millennials” over the issue of the civil rights movement versus the human rights movement. I came down on the side of the millennials, arguing that it is time that millennials take the reins of leadership in their search for justice in America. My one caveat was that millennials should be willing to listen to the lessons of history from “baby boomers and that boomers be willing to teach those lessons without being out in front of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.

So I am all in favor of the activism and the creative energy displayed by members of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. At the same time I think they need to listen to the gray heads who still remember the pitfalls of the past 50 years.

National Guardsmen confront protesters during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. Photo Credit: pedimentbooks.com

National Guardsmen confront protesters during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.
Photo Credit: pedimentbooks.com

For instance, in 1968, in spite of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the nation had made great strides towards racial equality in public accommodations, education, housing and health care. However, there was much work left to do. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party was pushing conservative southern Democrats and moderate Republicans to the bargaining table and reaching consensus over the major issues of that day. The next great leap was at hand if only the Democratic Party could hold onto the presidency.

In 1968, the Democrats met in Chicago to pick their nominee, they were met with protests and resistance from the Students for a Democratic Society, a group of students who worked to end the war in Vietnam. Prior to the convention, their activism had forced President Johnson to decline “to seek or accept” the nomination of his party. They won the battle. The soldiers would be coming home. Yet young people in all generations never seem to know when they are winning.  SDS moved into Chicago. They met with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and other so called  “radical groups” and coordinated street protests during the Democratic Convention.

A riot broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention as young white radicals joined forces with black radicals to protest the war in Vietnam.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A riot broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention as young white radicals joined forces with black radicals to protest the war in Vietnam.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There was bloodshed in the streets. The national guard was called in to restore order. The Democratic Party took a direct hit and Richard Nixon, whose coronation by the Republicans was not protested by SDS,  rode back into Washington on a theme of restoring “law and order.”

Nixon’s election was the worst thing that could have happened to the natural evolution of the civil rights movement. Much as the election of a Republican president in 2016 will have on the natural progression of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.

“White progressives should be held accountable,” seems to be the thrust of the Seattle protest and the NetRoots Nation protest last month during Sanders’ appearance on stage with former Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley.

I agree with this postulation. White progressives, because they know an injustice when they see one,  should be held to a higher standard. I tend to think that black and white progressives can deal with those type of discussions after joining forces to win an election against a team that can not recognize an injustice when they see one.

Imagine the proponents of #BlackLivesMatter marching upon the stage of the Republican debate in Cleveland last week and taking the microphone from Donald Trump. Surely, the cops would have been summoned to escort them off to jail. Democrats are more sensitive to the cause of #BlackLivesMatter and thus more forgiving when interrupted. It does not take much courage to take a microphone from a pacifist like Bernie Sanders, unlike pulling the same stunt on Donald Trump or Jeb Bush.

This all raises the question, why has this group not interrupted a Republican candidate? Why have the only Democrats who have been embarrassed with this stunt have been Sanders and O’Malley? Why #BlackLivesMatter have not paid a visit to a Hillary Clinton speech?  In the vernacular of the Millennials: “What’s up with that?” 

Indeed, what is the point?

 

Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

SOURCES:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/250667-protesters-interrupt-bernie-sanders-rally

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/08/08/bernie-sanders-leaves-seattle-stage-after-event-disrupted-by-black-lives-matter-protesters/

http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/08/09/22671957/guest-editorial-why-saturdays-bernie-sanders-rally-left-me-feeling-heartbroken

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/08/leaderless_or_leader_full.5.html