Democracy for America, a progressive grassroots network, will change its candidate endorsement process in response to a Black Lives Matter protest in Phoenix last weekend.
After a racial justice protest halted a meeting with Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday, the one-million-member network will now include candidates’ proposals for addressing racism among the central criteria for DFA’s endorsements, according to an advance copy of the announcement obtained by TIME.
The criteria apply to candidates from local elections to the presidential level.
Additionally, in its questions of candidates in local races, DFA will ask how candidates will support the Movement for Black Lives and confront racism and our “culture of white supremacy,” according to the DFA announcement.
“We want the candidates we endorse to not only say that #BlackLivesMatter, we want these candidates to know that progressives—including those in organizations with largely white memberships and staff like DFA—expect them to stand up to, name, and address systemic racism as fundamental and foundational to the movement to end income inequality,” wrote Charles Chamberlain, DFA’s executive director, in a note likely to appear on the group’s website next week.
DFA represents an important bloc of activist progressive voters, many of whom give small-dollar donations to candidates, canvass and make telephone calls before the elections. Founded by Howard Dean in 2004, the group can be a barometer of Democratic enthusiasm and has played an important role in mobilizing liberal voters in recent elections.
DFA is weighing endorsing a Democratic candidate in the primary but has not yet committed to throwing its support behind a candidate before the general election. Its new rules may have the greatest impact on state and congressional races.
The group’s change to its endorsement process follows a protest at Netroots Nation, the largest gathering of progressives in the country, where a few dozen Black Lives Matter activists interrupted a town hall meeting featuring Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders.
The protest flummoxed the candidates and left them scrambling over the following days to address racism. O’Malley and Sanders have all since said “Black lives matter” and sought to address systemic racism, as has Hillary Clinton, who did not attend the event.
The new approach announced by DFA marks a significant shift for one of the country’s largest progressive activist networks and reflects the influence the Black Lives Matter movement is having on the presidential race.
“At Netroots Nation, #BlackLivesMatter leaders called on all of us to use our power to respond to the current state of emergency,” said Chamberlain. “Democracy for America is ready to heed that call to action and make sure it has real electoral consequences in 2016 and beyond.”
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