Protestors disrupt Hillary Clinton event over private prison fundraising

Protestors for GetEQUAL, a group advocating for black trans women affiliated with Black Lives Matter, disrupted a Hillary Clinton rally in Cleveland yesterday over her fundraising from the private prison industry. Here are the videos the group posted on their Facebook page:

Following our ask of Hillary Clinton to divest from private prisons during a campaign rally in Cleveland today, we continued to call on her to return and refuse to accept donations from lobbyists and lawyers for private prison companies GEO Group and CCA. There’s no way to have a real conversation about the future until the campaign separates itself from those profiting off of mass incarceration and detention…

Posted by GetEQUAL on Thursday, August 27, 2015

More footage from today’s action at #HillaryinOH #blacktranslivesmatter

Posted by Angela Peoples on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Clinton, is not only accepting money from the private prison industry, but also counts two of its lobbyists as bundlers for her campaign. She has said nice things about criminal justice, but has yet to say whether she would endorse the police reform platform put forward by Campaign Zero, among other reforms. In short, when it comes to criminal justice, she went into her event yesterday with some explaining to do.

And she still does. Rather than addressing the protestors on their terms, Clinton paused mid-sentence to say, “I will certainly be happy to meet with you later, but I’m going to keep talking:”

Which is all well and good, but I don’t think the protestors heard what they wanted and needed to hear.

As the group wrote in a joint press release with Black Lives Matter:

“Bankrolled by private prison companies and lobbyists like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, Hillary Clinton is part of the system of violence that criminalizes and kills Black trans people — how can we take her policy suggestions to curb mass incarceration and detention seriously while she’s accepting this money?” asked Angela Peoples, co-director of grassroots LGBTQ network GetEQUAL and a disruptor of the event.

Great. Question.

Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, screenshot via YouTube

Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, screenshot via YouTube

Every Democratic candidate says that our criminal justice system is broken. They all get that they need to say there’s a problem, because there is one. But if you’re down with private prisons, you aren’t down with criminal justice reform. A lot of issues are more complicated than that; this one isn’t.

The first time Black Lives Matter protestors went to a Hillary Clinton event, they were stopped at the door, and met with the candidate backstage. Rather than answering their questions about her record, she pushed them for a platform.

Which is odd, given that her opponents in the race have criminal justice reform platforms of their own. For his part, Bernie Sanders is set to introduce legislation taking prisons out of the private sector entirely. How close does the race have to get before Clinton moves on this issue? And by then, how ham-handed and transparently fake will such a move be?

Hillary Clinton deserves to be pushed, both for a platform of her own and over where her money is coming from. In both their protest and subsequent press release, GetEQUAL called on Clinton to divest from private prisons, and to reinvest the money she has already raised from them in organizations working to promote equality for members of the black and trans communities.

Until she gives them an answer, expect them to continue to do so.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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