Bill Clinton yells at Black Lives Matter protesters, defends violent crime bill

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by Liz Fields

Bill Clinton has a history of sometimes suffering from severe foot-in-mouth disease and veering dangerously off message while on the campaign trail for his wife, Hillary. On Thursday, a short video clip of the former president sparring with Black Lives Matter protesters from the stump in Philadelphia once again raised the question of whether Bill is actually helping or hurting Hillary’s campaign.

The heated exchange began after the demonstrators interrupted Clinton several times while he was on stage, lambasting his administration’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The legislation has been blamed for ushering in an era of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinos, raising the U.S. prison population by more than a million.

But the part of the exchange that has been shared most widely on social media probably came when one of the protesters suggested Clinton should be charged with “crimes against humanity.”

“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said, pointing his finger at the crowd. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens.”

“You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter!” he went on. “Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.”

Clinton also defended the crime legislation, saying it helped bring about record lows in crime and murder rates.

“Because of that bill, we had a 25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in the murder rate – and listen to this – because of that and the background check law, a 46-year low in the deaths of people of gun violence,” he said. “How do you think those lives were, that mattered? Whose lives were saved, that mattered?”

Bill Clinton lectures Black Lives Matter protesters at a rally for his wife Hillary in Philadelphia on April 7. – Photo: Dennis Van Tine, Star Max-AP
Bill Clinton lectures Black Lives Matter protesters at a rally for his wife Hillary in Philadelphia on April 7. – Photo: Dennis Van Tine, Star Max-AP

The Clinton campaign declined to comment Thursday, while the Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry from VICE News.

Hillary Clinton and Sanders have openly attacked each other in recent days ahead of a crucial New York primary on April 19. Both candidates have also held rallies and town balls in largely Black and Latino areas of New York this week, campaigning on a raft of issues including criminal justice reform and police brutality.

Clinton’s campaign, which has eagerly and successfully courted minority voters, has done so with the support from prominent Black politicians, leaders and relatives of Black people who were killed by police.

The former secretary of state held an event in Brooklyn on Wednesday with a panel of prominent Black women, including Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Nicole Bell, the fiancée of Sean Bell, who was infamously shot by police 50 times on the night of their wedding in 2006.

“Nine years ago, I lost my fiancé, Sean Bell, in a police-involved shooting, and unfortunately, there are too many families with stories like mine,” Bell said in a statement to the New York Times on Sunday. “[Hillary Clinton] understands that we need reforms that can be felt on our streets and in our communities,” she added, declaring that she “will stand up to the gun lobby, work to end racial profiling, and make key investments to ensure that law enforcement officials have adequate training.”

After several early episodes in which Hillary Clinton was heckled by Black Lives Matter protesters, she met with several activists from the movement and has since campaigned heavily on issues of criminal justice and ending excessive use of force by law enforcement. The Black Lives Matter movement, a nonpartisan coalition of groups and individual activists, has stated it will not endorse any one candidate in 2016.

After several early episodes in which Hillary Clinton was heckled by Black Lives Matter protesters, she met with several activists from the movement and has since campaigned heavily on issues of criminal justice and ending excessive use of force by law enforcement.

Sanders has also sought to increase his support among Black voters and remedy early criticisms that his campaign focused solely on economic insecurity, to the exclusion of race and other issues. Sanders had also experienced early run-ins with Black Lives Matter protesters at several campaign events.

At one conference, demonstrators demanded that the senator recognize the names of Black people who have died in police custody, including Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in her Texas jail cell last July. Sanders received criticism for declining to “say her name” at the time, but later issued statements firmly stating that “Black lives matter.”

He has since also campaigned heavily on the issue, often repeating the line, “When a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable,” at rallies and events.

The Black Lives Matter movement, a nonpartisan coalition of groups and individual activists, has stated it will not endorse any one candidate in 2016.

In February, Sanders received an endorsement from Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died in an illegal police chokehold in July 2014. On Wednesday, the senator elicited loud cheers at an event in Philadelphia when he said he would formally apologize for slavery if elected president.

Liz Fields, New York-based reporter and associate editor for Vice and reporter for ViceNews covering foreign policy, ethnic conflict, culture, humanitarian and international affairs, and the 2016 election, can be reached at @lianzifields.

Bill Clinton ‘almost’ apologizes for lecturing Black Lives Matter protesters

by Nick Wing

Former President Bill Clinton offered a more even-tempered analysis of his criminal justice legacy on Friday in an apparent effort to smooth over the controversy surrounding his contentious exchange with protesters the day before.

“So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia. I almost want to apologize for it, but I want to use it as an example of the danger threatening our country,” Clinton told attendees at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The former president then dove back into disagreements about the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Prevention Act, a controversial piece of legislation that has become a point of criticism for both Hillary Clinton, who supported it as first lady, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, who voted for it as a congressman. During a campaign appearance in Philadelphia on Thursday, a pair of Black Lives Matter activists criticized the former president for passing the law, while calling his wife a “murderer” who was guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

“It is true [the bill] had longer sentence provisions,” Clinton said Friday. “It is true that they led to some people going to jail for too long in ways that cannot be justified. And I went to the NAACP convention last year and said that and said it was way past time to change.”

Clinton went on to say that in his attempt to “vigorously defend” his wife on Thursday, both he and the protester ended up “talking past” one another.

“We’ve gotta stop that in this country,” said Clinton. “We’ve gotta listen to each other.”

While Clinton has admitted in the past that the 1994 crime bill contributed to an era of mass incarceration – “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said last year – his defense on Thursday lacked that air of self-reflection.

Clinton explained the harsh sentencing measures of the legislation as necessary to ensure its passage, and pointed to the fact that the bill had many African-American supporters at the time. He also seemed to suggest that despite its catastrophic side effects, the new laws had played a part in lowering rates of gun violence and crime, a conclusion that hasn’t been borne out by empirical evidence.

While Clinton has admitted in the past that the 1994 crime bill contributed to an era of mass incarceration – “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said last year – his defense on Thursday lacked that air of self-reflection.

In one particularly heated section of the back and forth, the former president appeared to respond to criticism of Hillary Clinton’s decades-old comments regarding child “super-predators,” a now-debunked myth about kids with “no conscience, no empathy” who were committing crimes in the ‘90s.

“I don’t know how you would describe the gang leaders who got 13-year-olds hopped up on crack and sent them out in the streets to murder other African-American children,” he said, appearing to suggest that the “predators” were not the children themselves. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens, [Hillary] didn’t. …You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter.”

The former president’s remarks drew immediate backlash, as people accused him of revisiting the very sort of racially tinged rhetoric that had been used to push through the 1994 crime bill in the first place. To make matters more complicated, Hillary Clinton has already apologized for her comments on “super-predators.”

But despite his changed tone on Friday, Clinton once again pointed out that the political climate was different in the early 1990s, as the nation sought to deal with a crime wave that had many cities in a chokehold.

“You’re living in a country where young African-Americans think their number one threat now is from police officers,” he said. “When I signed that crime bill, they knew what their number one threat was. It was from gangs, making money out of cocaine, taking teenage kids, hopping them up, giving them guns and telling them to go kill other teenagers to prove their bones. It’s different.”

Nick Wing, senior viral editor for The Huffington Post, can be reached at Twitter.com/nickpwing.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The white paternal plantation syndrome surfaced in Bill Clinton, his instincts sprung to action when confronted by Black live matter protesters. How dear he thought a slave defy me on the plantation. His arrogance protruded through his ignorance,his racist psyche rushed forward to reprimand the protesters. The self righteous white privilege challenged,we see how the attack dog surfaced in him. He's used to the docile kneegrow,subservient on the plantation, he was not prepared to defend his policies that doubled the Black prison population, and cut aid to dependent families. The Clintos are a white fraud manufactured to sell an uneducated audience disinformation sporting Black in face. He ran into a wall of informed Black protesters and resorted to his white male-dumb paternalistic arrogance, it backfired his delusion was shattered, he turned to his primordial gut defense mechanism, and chastised the protesters,he's never been truly tested in a public forum by an informed body of Black people. He went into mild cardiac arrest and was totally shocked, there is more in store for is type , the bell has just begun to ring ! I know why the caged bird sings screams; enough pain in my brains!

  2. The white paternal plantation syndrome surfaced in Bill Clinton, his instincts sprung to action when confronted by Black live matter protesters. How dear he thought a slave defy me on the plantation. His arrogance protruded through his ignorance,his racist psyche rushed forward to reprimand the protesters. The self righteous white privilege challenged,we see how the attack dog surfaced in him. He's used to the docile kneegrow,subservient on the plantation, he was not prepared to defend his policies that doubled the Black prison population, and cut aid to dependent families. The Clintos are a white fraud manufactured to sell an uneducated audience disinformation sporting Black in face. He ran into a wall of informed Black protesters and resorted to his white male-dumb paternalistic arrogance, it backfired his delusion was shattered, he turned to his primordial gut defense mechanism, and chastised the protesters,he's never been truly tested in a public forum by an informed body of Black people. He went into mild cardiac arrest and was totally shocked, there is more in store for is type , the bell has just begun to ring ! I know why the caged bird sings screams

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