Maybe Bill Clinton forgot how Philly people can be.
But with protesters in his face as he campaigned for his wife last Thursday at a rec center in Mt. Airy, the former president nearly blew up defending his 1994 crime bill.
As Hillary Clinton fights to maintain her lead for the presidential nomination over Bernie Sanders, video showing her speak in support of the bill about “super-predators” – hypothetical, deranged young criminals imagined by social scientists to be on the rise in the early 90s – has been charged with using coded language regarding minorities in her push for the law.
Two Philly activists with the local Coalition for R.E.A.L. (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice, went to the Clinton event last week to silently hold signs challenging the former president’s crime bill, they said.
Instead, they got into a heated debate with the president, who claimed his bill yielded a 46-year low in gun violence.
He went on to claim, his voice rising, “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the streets to murder other African American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens, she didn't… You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter,” Clinton said, his voice growing hoarse.
Below see video of Clinton arguing with the protesters. Clinton makes the "gang leaders" comment at 4:57.
“That was appalling to me,” said Rufus Farmer, one of the protesters. “That is, of course, inaccurate. We do not supporter murderers … We’ve heard this before. When we say you’ve hurt the black community, they say black-on-black on crime is the cause.”
Erica Mines, the other protester, said she is still “processing” the whole situation.
“He revealed himself as a person who thinks black people are criminals and we deserve to be locked up and thrown away,” Mines said. “It was very, very hateful. It was very, very telling of his personal thoughts when it comes to the black community. I’m still appalled by it.”
Farmer and Mines both said they started out in silent protest, but that as Hillary supporters told them to put down their signs and argued with them, the squabble got the attention of Clinton from the podium, who began passionately defending the 1994 legislation that included a 10-year assault weapons ban and tougher drug crime sentencing guidelines.
"He wants to beat around the bush when it comes to the real devastation the crime bill had in the black community … Let’s deal with the harsh realities of what mass incarceration, what poverty looks like, what an unjust policing and criminal/prison system still looks like this today,” Mines said. “It’s not to say he created mass incarceration, it was already a problem, but he definitely added to it.”
Neither Mines nor Farmer supports any mainstream Republican or Democratic candidate for the presidency. Both have supported the Black Lives Matter movement but are not formal members.