The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday gave its blessing to two of the most prominent activist groups associated with the Black Lives Matter protest movement — the #BlackLivesMatter network and Campaign Zero — to host a presidential town hall focused on issues of racial justice, but stood firm in its stance that there will be no additional debates on the 2016 campaign schedule.
In letters addressed to leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter network and prominent activist DeRay Mckesson, the DNC invited the activist groups to coordinate and host a presidential town hall similar to those currently being planned by some state-level Democratic parties and some liberal groups including MoveOn.org.
‘We believe that your organization would be an ideal host for a presidential candidate forum — where all of the Democratic candidates can showcase their ideas and policy positions that will expand opportunity for all, strengthen the middle class and address racism in America,” wrote Amy K. Dacey, chief executive officer of the DNC, in the letters which were obtained by The Post. “The DNC would be happy to help promote the event.”
The letters come one day after organizers with the #BlackLivesMatter network — an activist collective with the same name often applied to the broader protest movement — called on the DNC to sanction an additional debate themed around issues of racial justice, which was only referenced once during the CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas earlier this month.
In an interview on Wednesday, Black Lives Matter organizer Elle Hearns said the umbrella group had yet to decide if it would proceed with an attempt to host a town hall, and said that she was still personally disappointed that the DNC will not sanction an additional debate.
“Their response to our request is unsatisfactory,’ Hearns said, and added that it is irresponsible for the Democratic National Committee to host so few debates. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be more mindful of her responsibility not only to the DNC, but to the American people.”
Mckesson, however, said he has been in talks with DNC officials to coordinate a presidential town hall and has also reached out to the Republican National Committee with the hope of including GOP presidential candidates as well.
Activists, many of whom were politically unaffiliated prior to the current protest movement, continue to grapple with how to best influence the ongoing presidential campaign. While many of the most prominent activists and organizers have gained national followings, and most of the leading presidential campaigns — especially in the Democratic field — have worked to ensure they remain in the movement’s good graces.
In a letter McKesson sent to DNC officials earlier this week, Mckesson noted the national conversation about race and criminal justice prompted in large part by the protests following the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“The issues of police violence, state violence, mass incarceration, and the impact of systematic inequity have been at the forefront of these conversations and they should also be centered during the 2016 Presidential Campaign,” Mckesson wrote. “We have an opportunity to create space for a robust and transformational conversation about a set of issues that are key to millions of voters.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Mckesson said he hopes to secure commitments from all current presidential candidates — both Democrats and Republicans — and that he has begun reaching out to potential venues and corporate partners. Mckesson said he has reached out to contacts at Twitter, the social network on which he is one of the most prominent users, to gauge their interest in co-hosting the town hall.
Source: The Washington Post | Wesley Lowery