A few things about Bernie Sanders being interrupted in Seattle:
(1) You may not like it, and it may even rub a lot of people the wrong way, but political activism is almost by definition annoying, bothersome, hassling, disruptive, etc. If you’ve ever done political activism, you know this. If you feel an issue is important and should be the central focus of dialogue heading into the primaries, then you are going to do what you need to do to get that issue discussed. People won’t like what you do no matter what you do — so at some point you just have to suck it up and do it, if you truly feel it will work. And it is working. For that, these tactics have to be applauded.
(2) It may seem “unfair” for the disruptions to target Sanders, who has the best civil rights record of any candidate in either party by a large margin, but the police murder rate of black Americans is also “unfair”. I think Sanders himself recognizes which of the two is more unfair, which is why he calmly stood off stage and let the women say what they came to say. To me, it was a supremely “Presidential” move and only further confirms why we must elect him.
(3) Targeting Sanders also ensures you will be heard. Such staged disruptions of other candidates’ speeches would likely budge the candidate nowhere, or even produce an opposing reaction. But Sanders has his ear on this issue, has already been addressing it, has addressed it his whole life, and will continue adjusting his campaign and his dialogue to address it further. This is why the fact that he is on the right side of the issue makes occupying his events in particular that much more effective.
(4) Also very important to note, is that the two women may have acted on their own, without the coordination of any official Seattle Black Lives Matter group. This Facebook page for Seattle Black Lives Matter, for instance, was created and promoted solely for the Sanders event. The two women have touted it and posted a press release from it, but a week ago it did not exist. And this other Seattle Black Lives Matter page features individuals claiming the act was not a part of any official BLM group. The two women do not seem to be affiliated with the official BLM in Seattle and do not appear to have acted in coordination with any larger group. If this is accurate, it means the backlash against the BLM for the disruptions is doubly short-sighted and both Sanders and the BLM should only grow from this.
(5) Having said the above, the individuals who disrupted the speech are wrong on some points. Some in the crowd chanted, “Say her name!”, a reference to the murder of Sandra Bland, but Sanders has already said her name multiple times since the Netroots conference. Again, Sanders also has the most prolific record of support for civil rights of any candidate, major or otherwise. The occupiers in Seattle may not understand this.
(6) Polls consistently show that as Bernie Sanders’ name recognition increases, his support grows. The one thing in his way is not his record, or his platform, or his ability to address racial issues — he’s addressing them and will continue to. The one thing in his way is that not enough people know about him yet. That lack of knowledge creates problems like we saw yesterday when people interrupt or attempt to criticize Sanders without full knowledge of his record. But when people learn about Bernie, overwhelmingly, they like him. This means a few publicity stunts like the one in Seattle should help his candidacy in the long run because it will introduce him to more people. Let us keep in mind that Sanders’ campaign, like the man himself, is resilient and only gaining in momentum. Proof:
(7) After the event was cancelled, Sanders went to his next stop and spoke in front of 15,000 people. In Seattle. In August. 15,000. What happened before that was not a bump in the road, it was an attempt by two women to nudge a flying asteroid towards other systems of inequality than just economic ones. They may not have gone about it the best way according to many, and they may even be uninformed or misinformed of Sanders’ record, but it won’t slow Bernie down. It will only slightly adjust his trajectory and increase his impact. As Bernie himself put it at the following event, “No president will fight harder to end institutional racism and reform [the] criminal justice system.”