Black Lives Matter activist skips meeting with Obama

A top organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago has decided to skip a Thursday meeting with President Obama and other black civil rights leaders, calling the event a "sham."

In an op-ed for the site Truth-Out, Aislinn Pulley wrote: "I do not feel that a handshake with the president is the best way for me to honor Black History Month or the Black freedom fighters whose labor laid the groundwork for the historic moment we are living in."

On Wednesday, the White House announced a meeting with civil rights activists both young and old, including Campaign Zero co-founders DeRay Mckesson and Brittany Packnett, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, the Rev. Al Sharpton and National Bar Association President Benjamin Crump.
 
The meeting, prior to the annual White House Black History Month reception, was set up to discuss a range of issues including criminal justice reform, community relationships with law enforcement and Obama's priorities in his final year in office, according to a senior administration official.
 
"I respectfully declined the invitation to the White House to discuss criminal legal reform and to celebrate Black History Month," Pulley wrote, adding that she assumed the meeting was intended to bring about a "genuine exchange on the matters facing millions of Black and Brown people in the United States."
 
"Instead, what was arranged was basically a photo opportunity and a 90-second sound bite for the president. I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it."
 
Pulley added that if the administration is serious about addressing the concerns of Black Lives Matter activists, it should work to ensure that police officers who kill black people unjustly are "fired, indicted and held accountable."
 
But until the president makes that commitment, "any celebrations of Black history that go on inside the walls of the White House are hollow and ceremonial at best."
 
She went on to list issues affecting racial justice in Chicago, repeatedly singling out Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama aide.
 
"We must consider who is criminal when Emanuel, the Obama administration's former chief of staff, let the Dyett High School hunger strikers starve for 30 days while fighting to save the only high school in their South Side neighborhood from closing," she said.
 
Pulley also laid out a number of demands regarding the criminal justice system, calling for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing, grand juries and cash bail, and calling for "community control of all police departments."
 
"Finally, we assert that true revolutionary and systemic change will ultimately only be brought forth by ordinary working people, students and youth — organizing, marching and taking power from the corrupt elites," she wrote. 
 
"No proponent of this system — Democrat or Republican — will upend the oppressive structures that maintain it."

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