Meagan Mwanda and Ashona Husbands never wanted to hold the Hillary Clinton sign in the first place.
Early Friday, the two Georgia State University freshmen walked to Atlanta’s City Hall to hear the Democratic presidential candidate. Last week, they attended a rally by Bernie Sanders at Morehouse College. They wanted a chance to size up Clinton on Friday but they didn’t get it.
Mwanda and Husbands were kicked out of the rally for writing “Black Lives Matter” on the back of a Clinton sign.
“Why are these three words such a threat to her and her campaign?” Mwanda said.
Clinton’s campaign said late Friday that neither the campaign nor the Secret Service ejected anyone from the rally. Later Friday, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department confirmed that its officers escorted two people out of the event for having signs. It was unclear whether the officers were acting on instructions they received to remove the students or took it upon themselves to do so.
Mwanda said once she and Husbands got to City Hall, they were put in a holding area for students. At some point, a campaign staffer gave Mwanda a sign reading, “Ready for Hillary.”
“I didn’t want to hold it, because I don’t know if I am supporting her yet,” Mwanda said. “I gave it away, but it made its way back to me.”
It ended up in Husbands’ hands.
The students knew they would be at the rally for most of the day, so Husbands had her books and bag. She took out a marker and wrote “Black Lives Matter” on the back of the sign. She also wrote the names of three people recently killed and for whom Black Lives Matter has rallied:
On another piece of paper, Mwanda wrote: “I am not a super predator.”
"Super Predator," is a term Clinton used in a 1996 speech in advance of President Bill Clinton's controversial crime bill.
"They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'super-predators,' " Hillary Clinton said in 1996. "No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel."
On Wednesday, at a $500-a-head fund-raiser in Charleston, S.C., Clinton was confronted by 23-year-old Ashley Williams, who demanded an apology to "black people for mass incarceration," while telling the candidate, "I'm not a super predator."
On Thursday, Clinton told the Washington Post: “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today."
Clinton, who has always enjoyed support in the black community, has not been fully embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement. Last October, at a speech at Clark Atlanta University, she was interrupted by protesters chanting "black lives matter."
“I was on my phone and when I looked up Ashona was gone,” Mwanda said. “She wasn’t loud. She wasn’t chanting. I just looked up and she was gone. A few moments later, someone came for me.”
The students said staffers and men with green military-type uniforms and bullet proof vests took the students in the hall and, according to both of them, told them that their signs and messages were inappropriate and that they would have to leave.
Elizabeth Espy of the APD said the students were escorted out by plain clothes officers. She said the men in uniform were members of the Atlanta Proactive Enforcement Interdiction (APEX) Unit.
“I wasn’t being violent or disruptive,” Husbands said. “I am an undecided voter. Hillary Clinton says that black lives matter, but when she speaks about the black community, she kind of glosses over it. I wanted her to see the sign and look at me. I wanted her to say something to win me over. The ironic thing is that the staffer gave me the sign in the first place. If they hadn’t given it to us, I would not have written it down.”
So the two, both of whom are still undecided as they prepare to vote for the first time, walked back to campus without hearing Clinton speak.
“It is kind of a metaphor. If she is going to kick out two college students for having a Black Lives Matter sign – an issue that is supposed to be something she supports -- what is going to happen when she is in office?” Mwanda said. “I am sure black lives matter to her, but she is handling this poorly. I am still undecided, but this gives me a clearer picture of what Hillary Clinton stands for.”