Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, and budding Democratic presidential candidate, was pushed off stage by Black Lives Matter protestors at an event in Seattle, Wash. on Saturday.
As The Washington Post reported, Mr. Sanders was scheduled to be the final speaker at a lengthy program held at a city park, but, before he could take the microphone, a small group of protestors from a Seattle chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement took the stage and demanded that the crowd hold Sanders “accountable” for not doing enough, in their view, to address police brutality and other issues on the group’s agenda.
Some of the spectators in the largely white audience booed and chanted for the protestors to let the senator talk. But Marissa Johnson, one of the protestors, shot back, “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you did it for me,” accusing the audience of “white supremacist liberalism,” as The Seattle Times reported.
Are progressives – a political group that has claimed solidarity with human rights campaigns across the board – racists?
Black Lives Matter Seattle says, not necessarily, but the group also states that it isn’t happy with what it views as the passivity of Sanders and other white liberals. At least that’s what Black Lives Matter Seattle Co-Founders Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford wrote in a press release.
“The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an effort to be relevant is over….You are either fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America, or you are part of the white supremacist system that we will tear down in the liberation of our people.”
Many African-Americans are frustrated after a year fraught with high-profile shootings of black community members. And since the June 16 shooting ramapage in Charleston, S.C. that left eight church-goers dead, tensions have been running particularly high.
On July 18 in Phoenix, a larger group of Black Lives Matter activists also interrupted a Democratic presidential forum where Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley were scheduled to speak.
Sanders, who is notorious for his commitment to liberal ideals and is considered one of the most progressive members of the US Senate, was quick to defend his record and offer his support at an event on Saturday night, shortly after the incident, stating that, "on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me,” he said.
The Saturday night event went much better for Sanders. Speaking at the arena where the Washington Huskies play, Sanders drew his largest crowd yet. About 12,000 people were seated inside with approximately 3,000 more standing outside.