NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with DeRay McKesson of the group, “We The Protesters,” about the meeting with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., Friday.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Today, activists with the Black Lives Matter movement met privately with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The activists have been calling attention to issues of racism and police brutality and marching in the streets of places like Ferguson, New York and Baltimore. DeRay McKesson is one of the best-known names of this movement, and after he met with Clinton, he streamed this video on twitter.
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DERAY MCKESSON: Hey. Thank you so much for the meeting.
HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MCKESSON: You’re on Periscope, so can you just say hi to the Internet.
CLINTON: Hi. Hi, everybody.
CLINTON: You are the social media emperor.
MCEVERS: DeRay McKesson joins me now from Washington. Thanks for being with us.
MCKESSON: Thank you, Kelly. I’m humbled to be here.
MCEVERS: Well, first off, can you just tell us, how did this meeting with Hilary Clinton come about?
MCKESSON: You know, I tweeted to her and said, I would love to find time to talk about a set of issues before you release the platform. And – in her campaign – she responded on Twitter, and we subsequently worked to schedule the meeting. So we met for about 90 minutes – about 10 or 11 protesters from around the country.
MCEVERS: And what did you talk about?
MCKESSON: We talked about a range of issues spanning from private prisons to mental health services for young kids to the role of the federal government ensuring equity in local and state governments in a community. So it was a tough conversation, candid conversation. I’m hopeful that it will lead to an informed platform that she eventually rolls out. You know, we didn’t agree about everything, namely the role of the police in communities, you know? We had a lot of conversation about that.
MCEVERS: You said that the – some of the interactions with Clinton were tough – tough how?
MCKESSON: Yeah, so we just didn’t agree, right? So there were pushes from protestors that are saying people don’t believe that the police are always these beacons of safety in communities. And she, you know, at the beginning, felt strongly that police presence was necessary. She listened and heard people sort of talk about how safety is more expensive than police. And we worked through that, but it was a tough exchange.
And I think around some other issues – around the private prisons – right? – it was like, you know, will you end private prisons? And she was adamant about ending private prisons. There was a question about, will she stop taking money from lobbyists who lobby for private prisons? And it was unclear where she landed, but that exchange was – we had, like, tough conversation around it.
MCEVERS: When you talk about alternatives to police, what are you talking about?
MCKESSON: So, sort of highlighting this question, what does it mean that we have a police-first response to everything? With kids in schools – right? – like, do we need the police to be the people that help schools be safe places? So just trying to push on that, you know, and thinking about, like – there are some models around the country where we’ve seen that when you employ people, that crime decreases in some places. And that’s, like, an alternative to this idea that police – that we can arrest our way out of the issue of crime.
MCEVERS: I mean, this activist movement got its start in the streets. Just over a year ago, you were protesting in the streets of Ferguson after the killing of Michael Brown. And now you’re in Washington having this private meeting with a presidential candidate. I mean, what do you make of this?
MCKESSON: Yeah. So the protest highlighted this need to focus on black America in a way that structures had not before. Hillary knows, just as Bernie and O’Malley, that they cannot win without the black vote. And what we’re seeing is, like, a new generation get mobilize around their own understanding of power and our understanding of, like, what the systemic response should be.
MCEVERS: And that’s candidate Martin O’Malley. I mean, do you have any plans to meet with Republican candidates?
MCKESSON: Yes. I formally requested a meeting with Marco Rubio. And they replied saying that someone else would reach out to me, and I’ve not heard a reply yet. And I will likely reach out to Ben Carson’s team, and I’m also trying to get a meeting on the books with RNC.
MCEVERS: That’s DeRay McKesson. He’s with the group We The Protesters. Earlier today, he and other activists met privately with Hillary Clinton in Washington. DeRay, thank you so much.
MCKESSON: Thank you.
MCEVERS: And one more note here. After today’s meeting, Hillary Clinton tweeted, quote, “racism is America’s original sin. To those I met with today, thank you for sharing your ideas.”