In the video, Williams is seen holding a banner quoting Clinton: “We have to bring them to heel.” It referred to a 1996 speech Hillary Clinton made in New Hampshire during Bill Clinton’s presidential re-election campaign, in which she defended the 1994 crime bill. The bill advocated for tougher policing of gang members. In the speech Hillary Clinton demonized Black youth, calling them “superpredators” and adding, “We have to bring them to heel.” The Clintons’ characterization of Black youth with that racist term served to promote the prison-for-profit industry.
Williams demanded an apology to the Black community and questioned Clinton about the disconnect between her racist past and her present stance, pointedly asking: “Which Hillary Clinton is running for president?”
Clinton did not address Williams’ questions and ultimately had a Secret Service agent remove her from the event. Clinton then returned to speak to other guests, who had berated and shamed Williams throughout the disruption.
In the past year Clinton’s campaign has gone back and forth on the question of Black Lives Matter. After public pressure from activists and organizers across the country, her campaign came out as prioritizing communities of color and ending structural racism. Yet an examination of the biggest contributors to Clinton’s campaign shows that she continues to receive donations from private prison industry lobbyists. The private prison industry and corporations play a key role in electing politicians who will allow them to continue to incarcerate Black communities and exploit Black labor.
The hashtag #WhichHillary trended on social media for 24 hours following the disruption. The confrontation made a significant impact in pushing the masses to discuss Clinton’s questionable track record when it comes to Black lives.
On Feb. 27, the day of the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton still emerged with 73 percent of the votes, many cast by Black voters who also favored Barack Obama in the 2008 election. This contradiction is important and showcases the power of capitalist media propaganda to misconstrue and repress important historical facts that shed light on the role Hillary and Bill Clinton have played in the oppression of Black communities.
Clinton’s win in South Carolina also indicates that this stage of capitalism has demoralized the masses and limited what is perceived as possible for changing the material conditions of the working class. As more Black lives are stolen, Clinton’s campaign has positioned itself as the reasonable voice representing different working-class communities.
Even some who may be more truly aligned with the Sanders agenda are led to believe by the corporate media that Clinton has the best interests of Black and working-class communities in mind. Meanwhile, the Sanders campaign in no way represents a true socialist program, as he remains reactionary on the demand for reparations for Black communities, as well as on the U.S. military presence in Africa, where imperialism continues to extract superprofits.
Last summer a historically Black church in South Carolina was the scene of a white supremacist’s gun violence that killed nine people. Just a few months ago, a South Carolina police officer was filmed assaulting a Black student. In South Carolina and across the U.S., the bourgeois agendas of capitalist candidates do not address the destructive development of capitalism that continues to harm and kill Black communities. Instead, their agendas try to turn the masses against each other in a competition to prove that one candidate is better than the other — when none is truly aligned with the plight of workers and oppressed people.
Williams’ bold action calls into question not only Clinton’s intentions but the validity of the entire capitalist system. Black communities are entitled to an end to racist violence from cops and vigilantes; to not be criminalized and scapegoated as capitalism crumbles; and to control the wealth that is created by the labor now stolen from Black workers.
To learn about Workers World Party’s 2016 Election Campaign, visit workersworldparty.org. Our candidates, Monica Moorehead for president and Lamont Lilly for vice president, are fighters for a true socialist revolution for workers and oppressed people everywhere.