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“Black Lives Matter” protesters disrupted two 2016 Democratic presidential candidates during speeches in Phoenix on Saturday.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDem blame game rages over Clinton loss Five things to watch for in the DNC race Sanders: I have little hope Trump will keep promises MORE (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley both had question-and-answer sessions halted at the 2015 Netroots Nation conference.
“Say that black lives matter,” demonstrators chanted at both men. “Say that I am not a criminal. Say my name.”
Activists began intruding on the event during O’Malley’s session with host Jose Antonio Vargas.
“What side are you on?” they began singing at the former Maryland governor.
Vargas tried salvaging the situation, but protesters only shouted over him louder.
“We hear you,” he said. “Everyone take a little breathe.”
The flustered moderator then let a “Black Lives Matter” leader who identified herself as Patrisse Cullors address O’Malley.
“Let me be clear – every single day people are dying, not able to take another breath,” she said.
“We are in a state of emergency,” she added. “If you do not feel that emergency, then you are not human. I want to hear concrete action plans.”
O’Malley responded by appealing to the unity of Americans that comes from their shared country.
“I think all of us have a responsibility to recognize the pain and grief caused by lives lost to violence,” he said.
“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” O’Malley added, drawing boos from the demonstrators.
An apology to O’Malley flashed on the event’s teleprompter once the disruption began, according to reports.
Sanders fared little better with outraged crowd members when his session began.
“If you don’t want to be here, that’s OK,” he said over yelling attendees. “I don’t want to shout over people.”
“Black lives of course matter,” Sanders added. “I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights.”
Sanders argued criminal justice reform is essential for improving race relations in the U.S.
“Black people are dying in this country because we have a criminal justice system that is out of control,” he said.
“We need fundamental reform in police departments all over this country,” Sanders said.
“In my view, maybe, just maybe, it is time to invest in jobs and not jails and incarceration,” he added.
Protesters hailed the two-year anniversary of the “Black Lives Matter” movement during their demonstration at Saturday’s event.
The protesters say law enforcement unfairly discriminates against blacks in both its policies and its enforcement.
- Updated at 3:50 p.m.