-- Hillary Clinton held an impromptu, closed-door meeting with five “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Keene, New Hampshire, last week that at times got notably tense, and somewhat uncomfortable, according to videos released late Monday night showing what it was like inside.
Standing inside an over-flow room after one of Clinton's recent campaign events, the Democratic presidential front-runner told the group of protesters she is “ready to do my part" to support their efforts, but at times seemed visibly frustrated during her interactions with them.
She ultimately offered them some advice on how to be a more productive movement. “You’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, ‘Here’s what we want done about it,’” Clinton said, “Because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee stadium, and say a million more like it who are going to say ‘We get it, We get it, We’re going to be nicer.’ Right? That’s not enough, at least in my book.”
Clinton, who in a testy exchange appeared to disagree with the protesters on how to implement policy change, later added: "Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart, you’re not. But, at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them."
The protesters also asked Clinton to reflect on policies from the Bill Clinton administration that led to the dramatic rise in mass incarceration we see today.
Clinton gave a policy-driven answer, saying, "I do think there was a different set of concerns back in the 80’s and the early 90’s, and now I believe we have to look at the world as it is today and try to figure out what will work now.”
Two of the protesters who met with Clinton appeared on "The Rachel Maddow Show" Monday night to respond to the meeting. They said Clinton’s answer “wasn’t sufficient” and accused her of “ducking personal responsibility." (Notably, last month Bill Clinton delivered a speech at the NAACP convention where he spoke about criminal justice reform and admitted, “I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it.” He said certain laws he implemented that made prison sentences longer were “wrong.”)
Clinton's campaign wrote in a statement released today that this discussion will be "one of many" that the Democratic candidate will have.
"This discussion was one of many that the campaign will continue to have with a wide array of stakeholders in order to build on Hillary Clinton's policy proposals to help reform our criminal justice system and achieve racial justice. As Hillary has said, in order to implement real change, we must confront the deep-seated biases and racial injustice that still remains in our country today," the statement read. "We must not only change hearts, but we must do more to face hard truths in America. We must also work together to change laws, raise awareness, and build a coalition to ensure every American knows what it means to be secure, safe and free."
Hillary Clinton met with the protesters, who are part of the local Boston Black Lives Matter movement, after a town hall event on drugs and addiction in Keene, New Hampshire. The protesters had planned to attend the Town Hall, but when they arrived the event was already full to capacity and so they were asked to watch in an over-flow room.
Following the event, Clinton went to speak privately with the protesters. Clinton's campaign did not allow reporters inside, saying that the protesters had asked there be no media. But after the meeting, the protesters told reporters they had never made such a request.
The group filmed the meeting themselves, however, and released the first excerpts from it Monday night.
Clinton, as well as other Democratic presidential candidates, have all struggled over the course of their campaigns with how to address the Black Lives Matter movement.
After facing heat for saying "All Lives Matter" during a campaign stop near Ferguson, Mo., earlier this summer, Clinton has since made a concerted effort to frequently say "Black Lives Matter" when discussing race issues and criminal justice reform.
Clinton has also made criminal justice reform a focus of her campaign. In April, she called for the “end of an era of mass incarceration” and for increasing the use of body cameras by law enforcement agents nationwide during her first major policy speech as a presidential candidate.