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Black Lives Matter Activist Confronts Clinton at Fundraiser

3 minute read

A Black Lives Matter activist confronted Hillary Clinton at an event Wednesday night, demanding that the Democratic presidential candidate address remarks she made on criminal justice in the 1990s.

Clinton was speaking about Walter Scott’s death during a private fundraiser in Charleston, S.C. when Ashley Williams, an activist who reportedly paid $500 to attend the event, stepped forward with a sign that read, “We have to bring them to heel,” quoting a speech that Clinton gave in 1996. Clinton stopped speaking to read the sign aloud, before telling Williams they would “talk about it,” the Huffington Post reports.

“I’m not a Superpredator, Hillary Clinton,” Williams answered, repeating a word Clinton used in a 1996 speech to describe kids with “no conscience, no empathy” who committed crimes. “Can you apologize to black people for mass incarceration?”

The brief exchange was caught on video. As Clinton replied to Williams’ questions by saying, “Nobody has ever asked me before. You are the first person to ask me and I am happy to address it,” Secret Service members were already removing Williams from the event.

The quote comes from remarks Clinton gave at a January 1996 event at Keene University in New Hampshire on behalf of her husband’s re-election campaign. During a discussion of major challenges of the Clinton Administration, she referenced anti-gang efforts (watch here):

We also have to have an organized effort against gangs, just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob. We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels; they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘superpredators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel and the President has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere.

Coined by Princeton University political scientist John DiIulio Jr., the term “superpredator” was a popular description in the mid 1990s for a kind of remorseless and violent young criminal that many predicted would soon overwhelm the country. In fact, as a recent New York Times story noted, violent crimes committed by youths dropped dramatically shortly afterward, but not before waves of legislation passed to try younger Americans as adults.

Clinton has been criticized for her support of the 1994 crime bill that her husband signed. The bill has since been widely denounced for contributing to the mass incarceration of black men. Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, has similarly been criticized for voting for the bill as a member of the House.

[The Huffington Post]

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com