Black Lives Matter leader warns Clinton of convention protests

Sit-in worked for Dems last week, he says, so it could be valid tactic in Philly

- NOW SHOWING AT USATODAY.COM Watch the full interview with DeRay Mckesson of Black Lives Matter.

A leader of the Black Lives Matter movement warned that activists are prepared to protest the platform at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelph­ia next month, citing the congressio­nal sit-in on the House floor last week over gun control as a possible model.

“There are two things that I’m mindful of: One is that I’ve not seen a draft or a final version of the platform from the Democratic convention committee, and I think that will have a big bearing on how people mobilize,” DeRay Mckesson told Capital Download. “The second is that Congress just sat in, so it’ll be interestin­g to see how the DNC responds to people in protest, given that congressme­n literally just sat in, and they seemed to validate that.”

His comments signal that Republican Donald Trump isn’t the only candidate who has to worry about disruption­s and demands from within the party at its national convention. Though Clinton has the nomination clinched, rival Bernie Sanders hasn’t formally endorsed her, and Mckesson expressed reservatio­ns about her commitment to criminal justice and other key issues.

At 30, he has emerged as a key organizer for the street protests that began almost two years after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Black Lives Matter staged protests at campaign events during the primaries, and Mckesson was among the group’s leaders who met with Clinton last fall to discuss their concerns.

“I would not say that this is an election that is between the lesser of two evils,” he told USA TODAY’s weekly video newsmaker

“This is an election potentiall­y between a candidate that people are rightfully really concerned about and a candidate that is evil.” DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter

series in an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where Mckesson spoke. “I think that this is an election potentiall­y between a candidate that people are rightfully really concerned about and a candidate that is evil.”

The “evil” candidate is Trump, he said, then elaborated on his qualms about Clinton.

“It took a lot of pressure for her to address race — like, more pressure than we would think a president in a country where race is such a central topic should take,” he said. “So that’s like a symbol. I think it bleeds into so many other things. So you think about, what does it mean that you have to sort of fight a nominee to come out with a criminal-justice platform, to come out with a platform about racial inequality, to come out and talk about these things?

“I was at her (campaign) launch in Roosevelt Island, and she talked about, you know, work schedules for working families. It wasn’t like she wasn’t talking about issues. She just wasn’t talking about issues of race.”

Mckesson said protests also were likely at the Republican convention in Cleveland. But they could be more consequent­ial at the Democratic convention in Philadelph­ia because they could resonate with two voter groups crucial to the party’s coalition: African Americans and young people. Clinton has had strong support from black voters in the primaries, but she’s struggled to reach Millennial­s, who overwhelmi­ngly supported Sanders.

At their meeting, Mckesson said, he cautioned Clinton that she couldn’t count on antipathy to Trump to turn out black voters.

“I said, ‘Hillary, I worry that you are underestim­ating how many people plan to sit this out because they are disillusio­ned,’ ” he said. “And if the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and if Hillary’s camp don’t help people see her as a real choice, despite their misgivings about her, I think this will be more of an uphill battle than it already is.”

If the Democratic platform doesn’t endorse a $15-an-hour minimum wage, strong criminal justice provisions and community oversight of police depart- ments, “I think that you will see protests around the issues,” he said.

He indicated that Black Lives Matter intends to keep pressure on Clinton if she is elected president.

“She will not be able to govern without a coalition of people of color,” he said. “She won’t be able to govern without them. It is unfortunat­e that it took so much pressure for the platform to be responsive to those communitie­s.”

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