It was billed as a town hall-style listening session to gain input on shaping the Democratic Party's national platform and try and heal the wounds of a divisive primary campaign ahead of this month's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
It quickly became, however, a session on the issue of police violence, particularly of the white-cop killing unarmed-black-men variety. The release this week of video showing an unarmed African-American man being shot to death at point-blank range by police in Louisiana brought the issue directly to the fore.
Rapper Killer Mike (real name Michael Render), an Atlanta-based hip hop star and Bernie Sanders supporter, said the Democratic Party has abandoned its base, especially African-American men. By failing to help young black men get good educations, learn trades and find good jobs, the party has left them uneducated and poor and subject to an aggressive, largely white, law enforcement community.
"African Americans have given a lot to the Democratic Party," he said. "Blood, sweat and tears, and all too often nothing is given back but a pat on the back. The Democratic Party has abandoned African-American men."
Here's a video from the event.
As for police violence, veteran Democratic strategist Tharon Johson suggested police were not being adequately trained. Johnson, who worked for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and Mayor Kasim Reed's 2009 campaign, said difficult changes are needed.
"Let’s start by saying all law enforcement agents, sheriffs are not bad people," Johnson said. "There’s a huge lack of training within these police departments on how to deal with ... a little hostile, maybe a little aggressive African American men."
But Killer Mike wasn't convinced.
"If you can’t take that training out into the community and not kill people as a police officer," you should be prosecuted, he said. "You execute a human being who is a citizen of this country you should be prosecuted. Why isn’t the hell a police officer saying this cop is wrong?"
In too many cases, he said, police departments have developed "a social structure of a gang that works for the municipal government we pay taxes for."
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