Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was midsentence when the chanting began. “What side are you on black people, what side are you on!” rang the chorus of around four dozen mostly black protesters streaming into a convention hall in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday.
A woman named Tia Oso grabbed the microphone as the protestors stormed the room.
“We are going to hold this space and acknowledge the names of black women who have died in police custody, and then Governor O’Malley we do have questions for you!” Oso said as the former two-term governor and his interviewer, Jose Antonio Vargas, watched helplessly. “As leader of this country will you advance an agenda that will dismantle structural racism in this country?” Oso asked.
“Yes,” O’Malley managed to answered, before he was drowned out again.
O’Malley was speaking at Netroots Nation, the country’s largest gathering of progressive activists when the proceedings broke down in a cacophony of boos, cheers and heckles on Saturday. Shortly afterward, Bernie Sanders, another Democratic candidate for president, was also silenced on the same stage by the group of Black Lives Matter protesters. Chanting, the activists shouted out the names of black women who have died in police custody and peppered the candidates with questions about their civil rights records.
A sea of mostly white progressives, including unions, labororers, bloggers, activists and musicians sat watching the drama unfold.
It was a moment that spoke to the tumult on the Democratic left and surprised even the organizers of the nine-year-old annual event. As the Democratic party increasingly coalesces around a progressive wish list like expanding Social Security and reining in Wall Street, the growing Black Lives Matter movement is calling loudly for the left to focus on racial injustice as well.
The two presidential candidates found themselves at the center of the chaos, both caught off guard and unable to answer the protestors.
“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” O’Malley said to boos and jeers.
I am speechless at the rudeness and disregard for public decency. Do the people involved in that organization really expect to be taken seriously?
If these people are the rank and file members of Black Lives Matter, then I have zero respect for their organization. They are the equivalent of the Black KKK.
I believe perhaps I have said enough…for today.