Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter protestors on Aug. 11 at a campaign stop in New Hampshire
The group released videos of the conversations Monday, and the Clinton campaign released a transcript
The demonstrators have made a point of protesting Democratic events in order to bring attention to their issues
Hillary Clinton and Black Lives Matter activists had a frank and at times tense discussion last week behind closed doors, and thanks to video released Monday, the American public is now hearing exactly what the two sides said to each other.
Throughout the 15-minute conversation, Clinton disagreed with the three activists from Black Lives Matter who had planned to publicly press the 2016 candidate on issues on mass incarceration at an event earlier this month in Keene, New Hampshire.
The 2016 candidate even gave suggestions to the activists, telling them that without a concrete plan their movement will get nothing but “lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it.”
“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said, arguing that the movement can’t change deep seated racism. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we could do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them, to live up to their own God-given potential.”
Clinton met with the Black Lives Matter members on Aug. 11 after the group of activists were not allowed into the presidential candidate’s forum on substance abuse. The protesters showed up shortly before the event started and, according to the Clinton campaign, were not allowed into the main event because the room has been shut down by the local fire marshal. A Secret Service agent told CNN at the time that they had also closed the door on any more people coming into the event.
But the Clinton campaign reached out to the would-be protesters and set up time for them to meet Clinton after the event in an overflow room. Media was initially going to be let in, but the activists asked for the event not to be recorded, so Clinton’s team never pressed the issue with them, according to a campaign spokesman.
The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”
Clinton acknowledged during the conversation that laws put into place by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did not work out as planned.
“I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the ’80s and the early ‘90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to figure out and that’s what I intend to do as president.”
But Clinton also told the protesters that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.
“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”
The activists did not appear to be won over by their conversation with Clinton.
Yancey told reporters earlier this month that she never heard “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence” and that Clinton “gave the answer she wanted to give.”
Two of the activists shared their disappointment with Clinton’s response on CNN on Tuesday.
“Her policy response – if it’s not addressing the anti-blackness inherent in some of the previous polices, we’re just going to see that thread continue,” Yancey said. “And that’s what we’re looking to hear. What’s shifted? What’s changed for Hillary Clinton that’s going to make us believe that she’s going to take this country in a different direction in terms of race?”
Julius Jones, founder of Black Lives Matter Worcester, said that activists look forward to discussing their concerns with other presidential candidates in the future.
“Each one is being made to offer their racial analysis in the United States,” he said. “We require that they have an understanding of to that list we need to strongly add analysis because we live in a pluralistic society.”
The group has been criticized for interrupting candidates in Seattle, Phoenix and other cities, but Jones said the group will not be deterred.
“Whatever it takes to get Black Lives Matter on the national agenda is what we’re seeking to do and it’s important to note that folks want to characterize and judge the Black Lives Matter movement in a myriad of ways, but what no one can argue with is this is a pressing issues,” he said.
The group also posted a series of tweets Monday night that cast doubt on Clinton’s answers.
And when Clinton gave suggestions on how to hone the Black Lives Matter movement, the protesters suggested that Clinton should not tell them what to do.
“Your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair,” Clinton said. “But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, ‘Here’s what we want done about it.’”
“I say this as respectfully as I can,” one of the activists said in response, “but you don’t tell black people what we need to do. And we won’t tell you all what you need to do.”
But Clinton also bluntly told the activists that the political realities of the movement, advising the activists that you can just say “this country has still not recovered from its original sin” of slavery, because you have to offer “people who are on the sidelines, which is the vast majority of Americans” something they can do to help.
“That’s what I’m trying to put together in a way that I can explain and I can sell it,” Clinton said. “Because in politics, if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, it stays on its shelf.”
Protesters from Black Lives Matter groups have become a force on the 2016 campaign trail, especially on the Democratic side.
At last month’s Netroots Nation in Phoenix, both former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were interrupted. Since those protests, Clinton has gone to great lengths to say repeatedly that “black lives matter,” and she has also made race and police reform a key part of her campaign.
Earlier this month, Sanders ceded a stage in Seattle to protesters to make their points at the microphone, but eventually left the stage and called off his event when those protesters didn’t relinquish the podium.
Black Lives Matter activists have been criticized at times for their tactics, particularly taking over events, but Yancey told CNN after her planned protest earlier this month that there would be more interruptions from the group in the future.
CNN’s Eugene Scott contributed to this report.