An ambush-style interruption by two Black Lives Matter activists at a high-dollar Hillary Clinton fundraiser this week shows the Democratic front-runner has a long way to go to win over all of the youth vote ahead of Saturday’s primary.
Or it could be the stunt — which played out inside the home of a Mount Pleasant attorney — represented Clinton’s turn to be hit, as Black Lives Matter pulled similar antics tagging Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
Wherever the answer lies, the confrontation drew national attention to Clinton’s record on race as she heads toward a likely runaway win Saturday and a projected turnout of more than 350,000 voters.
Clinton was speaking in the home of attorney Joe Rice late Wednesday night, addressing some of the 100 or so attendees when two people from the audience interrupted her speech.
The pair had paid to get into the event by making a $500 donation to get inside.
As Clinton was speaking in the foyer, one of the two pulled out a banner that read “We have to bring them to heel.”
The quote was a reference to Clinton’s words from 1996 when she was first lady and delivering a speech about crime reform. She spoke of getting gangs under control.
“They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said at the time, according to a transcript. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience. No empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Black Lives Matter member Ashley Williams carried the banner, addressing a surprised Clinton.
“I am not a ‘super-predator,’ ” Williams said, and asked Clinton to apologize to black people for mass incarceration tied to crime legislation and increased penalties from the 1990s.
The Secret Service moved in and Williams said agents escorted her from the event. Those in the crowd said the actions were inappropriate.
By Thursday morning the video-recorded confrontation was uploaded to YouTube. It was first reported by The Huffington Post and the story went viral.
“I wanted to bring her to confront her own words,” Williams told The Huffington Post after the protest. “We did this because we wanted to make sure that black people are paying attention to her record, and we want to know what Hillary we are getting.”
In a statement coming before the event, Williams also said, “Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the black community under the bus when it serves her politically.”
“She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in ’96, then she race-baited when running against Obama in ’08, now she’s a lifelong civil rights activist. I just want to know which Hillary is running for president, the one from ’96, ’08, or the new Hillary?” Williams, of Charlotte, also said beforehand.
Repeated attempts to reach a Black Lives Matter spokesman in the Charleston area were unsuccessful Thursday.
Later in the day, Clinton issued a statement Thursday saying she used inappropriate word choice in that 1996 appearance.
“In that speech I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families,” she said. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words and I wouldn’t use them today.”
A leading Sanders supporter in South Carolina said the Black Lives Matter confrontation did expose what many voters feel about Clinton and how some of her positions have evolved since she first showed up as a Washington power-player about 25 years ago.
“Which Hillary Clinton are they going to get? I think that’s concern,” said state Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Denmark, who switched his support from Clinton to Sanders earlier this year.
Clinton allies said the attack is misguided. “The best person to reduce the number of African-Americans incarcerated and to reform our criminal justice system is Hillary Clinton,” said former state lawmaker and Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers.
Sellers pointed out that when Sanders was in Congress in Vermont he voted for the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act that has drawn so much attention for what critics said led to dramatically increasing the nation’s prison population. The act was far-reaching in its scope.
Sanders’ campaign Thursday noted the House version of the bill included a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, which Sanders supported since 1988. It also included the Violence Against Women Act provisions. “Sanders supported these efforts to protect women,” his campaign said in explaining his vote for the whole package.
Clinton visited the Royal Baptist Church in North Charleston on Thursday night for a town hall hosted by state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston. She stuck to her common campaign themes of gun law reform, expanding education availability, and for President Barack Obama to move forward with filling the current Supreme Court vacancy.
Republicans are acting like “the president is not the president,” she said.