Black Lives Matter Activists Interrupt Hillary Clinton At Private Event In South Carolina

They wanted her to account for some of her past statements on racial justice.

02/24/2016 10:36 pm ET | Updated Feb 25, 2016
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had a private fundraising event in South Carolina interrupted by a Black Lives Matter activist.

Two Black Lives Matter activists interrupted a private Hillary Clinton fundraising event Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina.

Youth activist Ashley Williams demanded that the Democratic presidential candidate account for inconsistencies in her record on race, specifically around comments she made about crime in 1996.

Williams said she and a colleague, whom she did not identify, contributed $500 to attend the Clinton event, which was held at a private residence and was attended by around 100 guests. 

Williams said she and her colleague strategically placed themselves at the front of the crowd and waited until Clinton appeared. Speakers introducing Clinton around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night discussed Walter Scott, the Charleston A.M.E. Church shooting and how Clinton had a strong record of racial justice.

As Clinton spoke to the crowd, Williams stood to her side and held a sign quoting controversial statements Clinton made in 1996 in reference to at-risk youth, when she said "we have to bring them to heel." 

Watch video of the confrontation below.

Williams said when Clinton paused and looked at her sign, she asked the former secretary of state to apologize to black people for mass incarceration. The mostly white audience yelled at Williams and told her she was being rude, she said. 

"I wanted to bring her to confront her own words," Williams told The Huffington Post after the protest, adding, "We did this because we wanted to make sure that black people are paying attention to her record, and we want to know what Hillary we are getting."

Williams said the Secret Service threw her out out of the event.

The demonstration comes three days before the South Carolina primary, where turnout from black voters will be key to Clinton clinching the Democratic nomination. 

Williams, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, said she was motivated to protest because policies during President Bill Clinton's administration led to an increase in mass incarceration that mostly affected black communities. She pointed to three-strike federal sentencing laws, the elimination of rehabilitative programs for drug abuse and an emphasis on prison construction as part of the destructive Clinton legacy on crime.

Clinton has distanced herself from these policies and recently issued a detailed agenda on racial justice. But Williams wants more. 

“Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the Black community under the bus when it serves her politically," Williams said in a statement before the event. "She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in ’96, then she race-baited when running against Obama in ‘08, now she’s a lifelong civil rights activist. I just want to know which Hillary is running for President, the one from ’96, ’08, or the new Hillary?”

This isn't the first time Clinton has met opposition by activist groups during her campaign. In October 2015, protesters interrupted Clinton in Atlanta while she tried to roll out a plan for criminal justice reform. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also faced faced protests from Black Lives Matters activists at his events

HuffPost Pollster shows Clinton with 58 percent in South Carolina, compared with Sanders' 33 percent, heading into the state's Democratic primary. 

UPDATE: The Clinton campaign on Thursday sent HuffPost a statement from the candidate touching on her 1996 comments:

In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families. Looking back, I shouldn't have used those words, and I wouldn't use them today. 

My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society. Kids who never got the chance they deserved. And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities. We haven’t done right by them. We need to. We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline. 

As an advocate, as First Lady, as Senator, I was a champion for children. And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential.

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