By Blake Neff
The protest movement Black Lives Matter continued its attack on the most left-wing Democratic candidate for president Saturday, shutting down a Bernie Sanders event in Seattle and forcing him to cancel his speech.
Sanders was scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare. But he was ultimately only able to say a few words, thanking Seattle for being “one of the most progressive cities in America,” before a group of protesters ran up and took control of the microphone. Video of the incident’s beginning was captured by Seattle’s KIRO television station.
“If you do not listen to [us], your event will be shut down,” one protester said, while members of the audience booed. “Right now, right now. It’s your decision.” The sound feed of the microphone was then cut out while the protesters argued with organizers.
Following a short shouting match, an organizer of the event said he would let the protesters take a turn on the microphone, but only after Sanders was allowed to speak.
“We are trying to be reasonable,” the organizer said, which triggered an outburst of “We aren’t reasonable!” and “Stop talking!” from some of the protesters, who began grappling with the organizer for the microphone.
After enduring a barrage of verbal attacks, the organizer initially said the event was being shut down, while some in the crowd broke out into a “Bernie” chant. Apparently thinking twice, the organizer then decided to give the microphone over to the protesters. Things did not improve from there, as the protesters proceeded to verbally berate the audience:
“You guys are full of bullshit with your ‘Black Lives Matter,’” said lead protester Marissa Johnson, immediately earning cries of “You’re bullshit!” and more from the crowd.
“You’re never gonna hear Bernie speak unless I hear it silent here now,” she continued, which only threw the crowd into further uproar.
After the crowd finally quieted, she listed a series of local grievances and then demanded four-and-a-half minutes of silence in honor of Michael Brown, the teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri last year (the length of the silence reflecting the four-and-a-half hours Brown’s body lay in the street after he died).
“Bernie says that he’s all about the people and about grassroots. The biggest grassroots movement in this country right now is Black Lives Matter,” Johnson added. “If you care about Black Lives Matter, as you say you do, you will hold Bernie Sanders specifically accountable for his actions.” Johnson attacked Sanders for his reaction when Black Lives Matter stormed a Netroots Nation event Sanders spoke at in July, and she also slammed him for not putting out a “criminal justice reform package” similar to fellow candidate Martin O’Malley. (RELATED: Sanders And O’Malley Shouted Off Stage At Progressive Conference)
Black Lives takes the mic.
Sanders eventually decided to stop waiting for his chance to speak, and instead left the stage to mingle with supporters. He then left for another rally he had planned for Saturday night, which a spokesperson for his campaign encouraged disappointed attendees to go to.
“I am disappointed that two people [there actually appear to have been at least three] disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare,” Sanders said in a statement put out afterwards. “I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”
This marks the second time, after the Netroots Nation event, that Democratic presidential candidates have faced a major disruption due to Black Lives Matter. Notably, though, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has yet to encounter any problems with the movement’s protesters.
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