WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a sometimes tense private meeting last week with five “Black Lives Matter” activists, urging them to find a way to change policies because “I don’t believe you change hearts.”
In a video of the meeting released by the group, Clinton acknowledged the crime and incarceration laws pursued under her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had not always succeeded.
But she said the only way to relieve the effects of deep-seated racism in the United States was to change government policies.
“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way the systems operate,” Clinton told the group during an approximately 15-minute meeting after an Aug. 11 campaign event in Keene, New Hampshire.
“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.”
The Democratic front-runner rejected an accusation that she and her husband were “politically and personally” responsible during the Clinton administration for policies that were disastrous to minority communities.
“I do think there was a different set of concerns back in the 1980s and early 1990s, and now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try to figure out what will work now,” she said.
At one point, one of the activists told Clinton, “I say this as respectfully as I can, but you don’t tell black people what we need to do.”
The Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin, has become an active presence at some campaign events.
Protesters interrupted an Aug. 8 campaign stop in Seattle by Clinton’s Democratic presidential rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The activists attended Clinton’s campaign event as well, but it was full when they arrived and they watched from an overflow room. Clinton met privately with the group after the event.
“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,” her campaign said in a statement.
(Reporting by John Whitesides and Amanda Becker; Editing by Alan Crosby)
Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada August 18, 2015. (REUTERS/David Becker)