politics

Bernie Sanders Event Disrupted in Seattle

Unknown-1UnknownThe disruption of the campaign event for left liberal Bernie Sanders by Black Lives Matter activists in Seattle is sending ripples throughout the media and across the internet. Did they do the right thing? Are they really plants for Hillary Clinton? Was it wrong to antagonize potential allies?

This writer, for one, thinks they did the right thing, and it speaks mountains that Sanders didn’t invite them to speak even before the event happened — while it was still in the planning stages, and in fact seek to involve them in the planning. However, what was said – and left unsaid – also matters. And also, where things go from here matters.

Sanders has a history of downplaying the issue of police racism and murder. And when it was forcefully brought to his attention – at the Netroots Nation conference (with all the drawbacks of that group) – he responded by implying that all that need be done about racism is fight for jobs, free education, etc. Sure, the economic issues are intimately tied in

 Symone Sanders, a volunteer organizer with the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice, was announced as the new national press secretary of Sanders’ campaign after he was confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters.


Symone Sanders, a volunteer organizer with the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice, was announced as the new national press secretary of Sanders’ campaign after he was confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters.

with the issue of racism and it’s a mistake to ignore them, but Sanders’ thinking that that’s all there is to it is totally wrong. As people point out, what good did a job do Sandra Bland or any of the other victims of police violence and racism? (For a more in-depth history of the sort of approach that Sanders takes, see this article.)

The issue of the criminal (in)justice system, including police abuse and murder, is one of the most crucial if not the most crucial issues in the US today. Until recently Bernie Sanders has pretty much whiffed on this issue and the only reason he’s changed recently is that he wasn’t allowed to go on like that. And why shouldn’t somebody at the forefront of this battle have been allowed to speak at this rally in Seattle?

But once they got the stage, there were a couple of things that really needed to be said.

  • First of all, if black lives matter, then so do Palestinian lives. Almost everybody is giving Sanders a free pass regarding his support for the racist State of Israel. His support for Israel is a huge issue and should be really emphasized. It’s unfortunate that the young
    "I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." Martin Luther King, jr.

    “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
    Martin Luther King, jr.

    woman who spoke didn’t really hammer him on this issue.

  • Second, this was a largely white audience, and what they need to understand is that if the police are allowed to run rampant throughout the black community, they will also be abusing and even killing white people too. Nothing gets people’s attention like self-interest, after all.
  • Third, and really crucial is an explanation of the entire role of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This is the wing that diverts and drowns every real movement for change. Even where Sanders is right on the issues, what does he propose? In effect nothing but vote in more Democrats. What’s needed is to build the movement in the streets and link that with running candidates from that movement apart from and in opposition to the Republicrats.

If they had done that, it would have been a real “learning moment” for thousands in that crowd. It would have also completely dispensed with the accusation that these young women were really a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, as those points apply to her even more than to Sanders. Let us hope that Clinton as well as the disgusting Republican candidates get the same “welcome” as they travel around the country.Unknown-2

These representatives of the racist capitalist system deserve the same "welcome".

These representatives of the racist capitalist system deserve the same “welcome”.

But nobody ever said it would be smooth and easy. Especially in the US, the land of pragmatism, it’s inevitable that as a movement develops mistakes will be made. But it’s still important to learn from the past. As somebody once said, “a smart person learns from their own mistakes; a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.”

Additional NOTE: It’s said that the two young women refused to allow Sanders to speak at all. We haven’t seen any video that shows this event until the end, so we don’t know about that, but if it’s true then we think this was mistaken. It’s one thing to insist on having one’s voice heard and it’s another to refuse to allow somebody to speak at their own event, even if that somebody is a capitalist politician. (The only exception would be racists and others who seek to stir up attacks on oppressed groups of people.)

Categories: politics, racism

6 replies »

  1. More importantly, there is little truth to your characterization of Sanders non-chalance about BLM. He rejected the slogan as inadequate, and tried to argue that saying the words would not necessarily do anything. Might have been wrong, but his policies have always been better than what you repeat here.

    • Sanders position up until he was challenged at Netroots Nation was that jobs and wages are all that need be said in regard to racism. That was his response initially when he was challenged there, in fact.

  2. Egregious factual error alert!

    1. It wasn’t a Bernie Sanders event; neither he nor his campaign were running it. The event was a celebration of the anniversary of Social Security. See: http://www.socialistalternative.org/2015/08/03/sawant-socialist-bernie-sanders/

    2. Because it wasn’t his event, he could have invited anyone from Black Lives Matter. And these 2 were not Black Lives Matter but a different group called 206 Outside Agitators although they bill themselves “Black Lives Matter organizers” in order to exploit the movement’s credibility for their attention-grabbing stunt: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/08/09/1410195/-Seattle-BLM-Protest-Was-Not-BLM-Sorta

    3. You completely misrepresent what Sanders has been saying about police violence since almost the first day of his campaign.
    http://www.ringoffireradio.com/2015/05/bernie-sanders-on-baltimore-police-officer-must-be-held-accountable-for-their-actions/

    4. You drag Israel/Palestine where it doesn’t belong but in doing so, you again misrepresent Sanders’ position on the issue. He’s not pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. He supports the two-state solution (which is the consensus position of all the major factions of the Palestinian movement). People can read for themselves what his position is here: https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/how-bernie-sanders-reacted-to-israels-attacks-on-gaza-and-his-position-on-israelpalestine/

    5. “Even where Sanders is right on the issues, what does he propose? In effect nothing but vote in more Democrats.” 100% wrong. See: https://berniesanders.com/issues/racial-justice/

    As for whether these two were plants from Hillary Clinton, I doubt that her campaign would touch a racist like this with a 10-foot pole: http://i.imgur.com/WB1aNYP.jpg

    • Whether the event was formally organized by Sanders or not is not the point. I am quite certain that if he had wanted to have somebody address the issue of racist police, it would have been done. As far as Sanders addressing the issue: It’s undeniable that he has tended to avoid it. The fact that he just a day or so ago put up something programmatic on the issue on his web site speaks mountains. His hiring of a black woman as his press secretary on Saturday is also a transparent ploy. It’s crystal clear that he only did that because he was confronted twice about it – first at the Netroots Nation gathering and then more recently in Seattle. And his immediate response at Netroots Nation was very telling. What he first did was to point to the economic points on his program as a solution. This completely avoids and in fact covers up for the issue of police racism and violence. “PW” complains that we “drag Israel/Palestine where it doesn’t belong.” Of course, just like Sanders yelled “shut up!” to a constituent who challenged him on his position on the issue, Sanders and his supporters prefer that his position on this not be addressed. That’s because he does, in fact, support Israel and Zionism, which is a form of racism. See this article, for example. The fact that he criticized Israel’s tactics in their attack on Gaza or that he calls for a two-state solution means nothing. Even Obama does that. Sure, Sanders has (very recently) put up something on racist violence. In the first place, it’s still more of “support the police but they should do it differently.” But completely aside from that, how does he propose to get these measures instituted? Does he propose a mass movement from below, one that he’ll help organize? Does he pose the need for an alternative to the Democrats, for the building of a mass workers’ party? No, of course not, because he’s a capitalist politician. The only means he proposes is to vote in politicians who will do these things. And which politicians? Why, the Democrats of course. Finally, as to the two young women who carried out the disruption — who they are individually is not so much the point. The issue is whether they were right in insisting this issue be addressed. As Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report has written, the Democrats in this election cycle will seek to bury the issue. We must not allow them to do so.

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