The Democratic National Committee has agreed to allow the #BlackLivesMatter network and Campaign Zero, the main groups orchestrating the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to host a presidential town hall focused around racial injustice. However, it has refused their request for a 2016 debate.
In a letter addressed to social media political maverick DeRay McKesson, the DNC invited the group to host the presidential town hall, also agreeing to promote it for the movement. "We believe that your organization would be an ideal host for a presidential candidate forum — where all of the Democratic candidates can showcase their ideas and policy positions that will expand opportunity for all, strengthen the middle class and address racism in America," wrote Amy K. Dacey, chief executive officer of the DNC.
The agreement for a town hall comes only one day after a request from the group for a debate from the DNC to focus exclusively on race issues, as it was only addressed once at the CNN debate earlier this month.
In an interview on Wednesday, #BlackLivesMatter organizer Elle Hearns expressed her disappointment with the DNC. “Their response to our request is unsatisfactory," she said. "Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be more mindful of her responsibility not only to the DNC, but to the American people.”
Deray McKesson, however, has worked tirelessly to organize the town hall in question — not only for Democrats, but for all the current presidential candidates. As he noted in his letter to the DNC, it is a topic for everyone, not just a marginalized few. “The issues of police violence, state violence, mass incarceration, and the impact of systematic inequity have been at the forefront of these conversations and they should also be centered during the 2016 Presidential Campaign," McKesson wrote. "We have an opportunity to create space for a robust and transformational conversation about a set of issues that are key to millions of voters."
Brittany Packet, organizer for the organization Campaign Zero, was elated at the possibility of a town hall. "The lessons of history are clear, and instructive for us right now. It is both protest and policy work that will get us the win, and we need every single possible strategy at our disposal in order to see real change," Packnett said. "So I think we have an opportunity to be creative here in how we engage presidential candidates in the same way that our movement has been creative in how we have protested and created peaceful but necessary disruption around the country."
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