Features Aug 12, 2015 at 4:00 am

The Big News Sanders Intended to Deliver in Seattle—His Announcement of a New National Press Secretary, Symone Sanders—Was Overshadowed by What Happened at Westlake

Bernie Sanders speaking at the Comet Tavern. The Stranger


Good insight at the end

Why did HRC get a free pass from BLM?

@2 because BLM are anarchists that don't give a shit about actually improving anything for anyone. "If he's our best option, then I'm burning this to the ground."
Right, Sanders didn't address these two. But what did the black community say? If the black community lets these two stand as their spokespeople, so be it. That's who it really hurts.
Either these women are JUST attention mongers, or they are short-sighted idealistic attention mongers. Alienating the people who are your biggest allies only helps your enemies. You'll burn it to the ground? No, you won't. You'll make an ass of yourself and hurt the only candidate who is decent enough to let you speak.
This is very good insight.

First, let's not kid ourselves: Bernie *is* a politician. What distinguishes him is that he cannot be bought and that when he says something, you know he believes it. It's a matter of integrity. But there is no doubt that he is scripted, that he is calculating, and that his eye is on the "prize" (frankly, I think you have to be clinically insane to want to be President). Politics has been his life, and he's had a long one, so he's acutely aware of how quickly your political fortunes can turn to custard if you aren't extremely careful.

The simple, sad truth is that even on the left there is significant embedded racism. It is not as virulent or obvious as the GOP's brand (would be tough to be MORE obvious really...), but it is just as surely there, especially -- as you pointed out -- with older people. But here's the thing: Bernie still needs their votes. There is real political danger in appearing too forgiving to people who've just called some of your supporters "liberal white supremacists".

This is a huge obstacle for Bernie (and Democrats in general, increasingly), and that's obvious from the message most central to his campaign: "we stand together". Racial tensions have hit the boiling point, and it's in this environment that he's essentially trying to re-build the New Deal coalition: African-Americans, white working class voters, and progressives. This is an uphill battle, to say the least, especially because he doesn't have some of the natural advantages which Obama did (no, not just race).

Plus, really, what's Bernie going to say which wasn't part of his scripted speech? "I know how they feel"? That also carries risks -- because frankly, he doesn't understand. No white person can really claim that. That's why bringing Symone (who is BRILLIANT, I feel the need to say) onto the campaign was so huge.

But all the political calculus aside, I think it might come down to this: Bernie's an introvert. Charged social situations which catch him off guard probably make him uncomfortable, and he doesn't like to say things without thoroughly thinking them through. In a lot of ways that lends itself to political skill, and it plays up to some of his rhetoric ("this campaign is not about Bernie Sanders", "let's not turn this election into a soap opera"). It's not so great for reacting smoothly on-the-fly when someone shouts over you and steals your mic.
How can we tell these women are REALLY black???
Rehash and rehash, spin and spin, this whole affair is de-evolving into click bait.
Being disabled in Seattle, this incident greatly upset me. The event was a very expensive celebration for Social Security. These young girls must be very ignorant of what that means, or extremely rude. The disabled comprise all colors and walks of life. The majority of us live in extreme poverty. We experience discrimination every day. We understand BLM and what they stand for. We too, have had many disabled people murdered by police. We are their allies. To interrupt one of the very few opportunities we ever have to get together and have people recognize us, is just so disappointing. We would never dream of wheeling up to their stage and taking over. We are also oppressed and sympathize. Please remember this. This was not a political rally it was a celebration and a way to share ideas to get us out of poverty. I wish the press would recognize this. The disabled are young and old and come from every race, religion, and sexual orientation. We deserve respect too.
I'm still waiting to hear what Bernie has to say about the disabled.
It boils down to a failure of security. Anarchists are inevitable elements at any rally, and the chance of some of them having the gumption to make a scene is low, but over the course of time, also inevitable. If these had been white boys with black bandanas, we'd read this action differently, and if they'd been less insufferable and less unhinged, we'd also read this differently. Given the "accessibility" of the mic and the accommodating nature of the crowd, it was a roll of the dice who would take stage, and given that, it could've been better, but it could've been worse.

Even though the media has participated in the theater by making it more than a story of poor security (boring!), it seems like there's at least a little more fuel for the fire of #BLM, and hopefully some more thoughtful spokespeople can be involved if this gains any momentum.
Hopefully these leaders will decide to call attention to their cause by walking onto busy roads and find a driver equally self-absorbed in their cause of continuing to get the f home.
"knock back a glass of rosé"

bizarre... is that what rich Smith's do? The rosy hued folks don't like rosé so they they knock it back? Culture is in the details and man was that a bizarre one.
@15: that was a little lefter-than-thou condescension to white supremacist liberals - apparently we're the only ones that drink rose. and everyone in Europe.

news flash, Rich Smith: rose is delicious and very refreshing!

now, back to fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America.
It's always easier to highjack someone else's rally, rather than doing all the work to organize your own. Easier, and lazier.
I have followed this story with great interest, and have come almost full circle as I learn more. It's been a good lesson in why one should listen and learn before spouting one's opinion willy-nilly. But I digress.

The larger point is that, both morally and strategically, racial justice must be a large part of a winning coalition for the Democrats ("burn it all down," my ass). Lord knows the Republicans spend enough time firing up the racist elements in their base. The Westlake rally actions were bold, necessary and mostly successful political activism. Where they failed as political theater was in their inability to seize the crowd's attention and handle some nasty hecklers.

They also failed in winning the PR battle among members of that coalition, which is a shame.

My critique of Seattle-area BLM "organization" is that you have 2 young women who are the only ones with the ovaries (tip o' the hat to Dan Savage) to follow up on the Netroots action, but they don't have the chops to manage the crowd. It'd be nice to have see some activism that shows leadership, charisma, and the ability to use the media as a useful tool.
Sebawim @7 --Charged social situations which catch him off guard probably make him uncomfortable, and he doesn't like to say things without thoroughly thinking them through.--

I think you describe him and the situation perfectly. It's dangerous in politics today to improv. Every little thing will be analyzed and taken out of context, and at this early stage an event like this could sink him-- if he said the wrong thing-- and just about anything would have been the wrong thing. Remember Howard Dean's rebel yell. That one tiny impromptu thing echoed him out of the race.
It's sad but staying on the script is necessary, at least at this stage. Everyone thinks they would have handled things better but it was a no-win situation for him. He didn't criticize the disrupters, he didn't try to placate them, and either of those would have been a disaster. This way it's about them, not him. I think he handled it as well as can be expected--Better to just go on to the next.
@:13: I hear you. It's a concern, but that's what coalitions are all about. Liberals, and especially the gay community have to pretend they give a shit about issues of people with color. In return, people of color have to stifle the socially conservative bullshit they get at church. Both sides have to hold their noses a little bit and make do. It's either that or the very real possibility of President Rubio and a Republican Congress. Burn that down.
'The Black Lives Matter Seattle cofounder Marissa Johnson told an interviewer two days after her direct action in Westlake Park, “The system has never, ever, ever, ever done anything for black people and never will.”'

This knucklehead in ill-advised stretch pants comes off as the polar opposite of Rush Limbaugh – both of whom have done more harm than good to their respective causes, through sheer bloviating, incendiary, and demonstrably false accusations, claims and insults.
@9: you keep beating that Bill Cosby drum.

BLM is about stopping police killings now. lowering the out-of-wedlock birthrate takes generational change - decades. and who gives a fuck anyway? its increasing across the ethnic and social spectrum of the US.
& when you don't sound cold & politician-like, you're ridiculed a la Howard Dean.
It's not that old white people have a deeper connection to earned benefits, but rather that they are much more likely to have spent their entire lives in white enclaves and not had any close black friends, except perhaps at work. Blackness has a lingering and vaguely menacing quality for them, even if they consider themselves "liberals" and staunch supporters of the old school civil rights movement. Seattle has always been a bastion of whiteness, and it is becoming ever whiter as rampant growth and skyrocketing housing costs squeeze black people out.
let me tell you my personal story of how events effected me oh so personally...
If whites & progressives drop their support of #BLM because of one uncomfortable and awkwardly executed action by two people, then their support was only superficial anyway, underscoring a key point of the action.

I think we can definitely shrug it off. Sure, name calling and speaker blocking might not be super productive, and some raw emotions were expressed and generated, people were offended... you can debate all the details ad infinitum -- but we can still shrug it off and continue to support actual liberation & the groups working for it. And importantly: also talk to other white folks elsewhere & encourage them to shrug it off as well, redoubling all of our support for #BLM and the related groups/movements.

If anything I would optimistically suggest that *increased* and unambiguous support from white communities now will not only 1. get more shit done to reduce the killings/jailings/oppression, but importantly 2. let Blacks see that they actually *do* have allies, allies that can take a little bit of shit now and again, which will in turn reduce the need/tendency for actions such as this one at all. Pulling our hand back now because of a little sting won't benefit anyone's liberation. Our hand is much stronger anyway, by default. Better to be calm.

In fact, those with the power and privilege on their side have a specific responsibility to be extra patient and not react to provocations, but instead continue to work for peace and justice despite them. That is, if they are really serious about wanting peace and justice for all. We can take the hit this time around. It's not that big of a deal. Get over it. Be like Mr. Sanders: move past it and keep working for what is right.

Privilege doesn't feel like privilege. It feels like the way things are. No reason to be aware of it.

(spoken as a cauc. male. I look like my avatar, mostly)
"If they really wanted to see him, why not just chalk up this short speech as a loss, grab some lunch downtown, knock back a glass of rosé" Or perhaps some malt liquor?
There's a 2400 year old proverb that reads, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Had these two activists knew and understood that proverb, then they could have used Bernie to further enhance their message and platform on a larger scale. Instead, they attacked a "soft target" and only divided folks.

I feel bad for Bernie and hope this doesn't ruin his chances of becoming President.
Are you kidding me? That is your critique? He had 15,000 people come to hear about his platform and he focused on his platform and that's the problem. Most of those 15,000 people wouldn't have known about the Westlake event. So he would've had to take at least 10 minutes explaining the events leading up to it and another 10 to do the story justice. When you have 15,000 people come out to hear you, think about if you are going to spend 20 minutes of their precious time talking about a story that many didn't know about. Give me a fucking break.

Of course he's a politician. His experience as a politician is why he's getting support.
And there was a press release where excerpts where published in new papers and online media forums all over.
“I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”
Obviously Black Lives Matter only if they're not collecting Social Security.

"“The system has never, ever, ever, ever done anything for black people and never will.”'

It's arguable that Social Security has done more for Black Lives, on average, than it has for whites on average
Here's what I don't understand: how can you be a radical activist throwing your full might at liberating black people from the oppressive shackles of a system that has been racist from the start and was built to marginalize you but still be an evangelical christian?

Or a christian at all, for that matter? Those are some of the first shackles to throw off.

As for her tactics.... sometimes you have to generate some chaos to get yourself heard. In this instance I think forming alliances and solidarity is going to get better results than just making a bunch of noise, but I respect the disruption.
How would BLM like it if their rally was hijacked by some other organization? This type of action gains nothing but disrespect. I totally support giving blacks fair and equal treatment. I cannot support BLM ever.
"He offered no comment about racial justice outside the usual ones he gives in every stump speech, nor did anyone in the crowd ask him to."

I was at the Comet, and I heard a different speech. I recall hearing about astronomic unemployment among people of color, particularly youth; I recall hearing about horrific incarceration rates among African-American men, and what might we do about it; I recall hearing about police brutality and violence, and what Bernie wants to do about it.

Moreover, how is a crowd at a political speech supposed to "ask him to" do anything?

This piece was poorly written, with some bizarre agenda items being pushed (rosé, really?) and frank inaccuracies.

The author needs a better editor, or maybe a babysitter. This is not journalism.

Seeing as they're teabagging conservatives, I'm sure they absolutely believe that blacks on SS are lazy and/or "slaves" to the Democrats. They're no different than Ben Carson and other black conservatives asshats.
@ 34 Boom. Buzz buzz, Rich got served.

Lived most of my life in Seattle. Currently in Philadelphia being reminded how painfully not diverse Seattle is.

"If they really wanted to see him, why not just chalk up this short speech as a loss, grab some lunch downtown, knock back a glass of rosé, and catch a bus up to the U-District?"

Said like someone with all the time and energy in the world. @11, who is disabled and came to hear the topic advertised, likely would not have been able to hoof it that fast. It wasn't about "seeing him," it was about the topic.

I think it is right to bang the drum day and night on black lives matter but I also think that income inequality is a huge part of that issue.

But this "dismantle the whole system?" If you are talking about a political system, good luck. A lot of us have been fighting that one as well. And good luck getting anywhere near HIllary.

I would LOVE to see someone disrupt a GOP event but they are likely now to have tighter security so it may actually take some doing.

But @28 is right - the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Pragmatism can unite better than almost anything else.

Everybody has to matter or nobody matters. Those dumb bitches of the BLM are just out to get attention for themselves. I don't know about anybody else, but they seem like a bunch of three year old begging for attention and if they are not getting the attention they think they deserve they throw a tantrum. Personally I don't give those children (or adults who act this way) any kind of attention or press. Its way they want. again in case you didn't understand the first time EVERBODY (INCLUDES THE POLICE) HAS TO MATTER OR NOBODY MATTERS. Fuck the anarchist. bunch of punk ass bitches.
Everybody has to matter or nobody matters. Those dumb bitches of the BLM are just out to get attention for themselves. I don't know about anybody else, but they seem like a bunch of three year old begging for attention and if they are not getting the attention they think they deserve they throw a tantrum. Personally I don't give those children (or adults who act this way) any kind of attention or press. Its what they want. again in case you didn't understand the first time EVERBODY (INCLUDES THE POLICE) HAS TO MATTER OR NOBODY MATTERS. Fuck the anarchist. bunch of punk ass bitches.
@ 34 agreed.
@36: not diverse in what sense? there aren't enough African-Americans? are there are just too many white people? growing up in the Midwest, diverstiy was white or black. no Asians, no natives, no immigrants.

the most diverse zip code in America is in Seattle.
@37--Thank you. I was thinking the same thing. People at the rally may have come early, and were there for hours. Many of the disabled and/or elderly people would have barely had enough energy to get home, they were not planning to go to the arena.

Plus, for the record, Rich, a lot of people who were able to hurry from Westlake to the arena didn't get there in time to get in, even without your clever little lunch 'n' rose.

@2--it's in the article--HRC has Secret Service protection. Good luck disrupting anything she does, even from the audience.

@34--Yes. And some of us at the Comet weren't checking online and hadn't even heard about Westlake. (OK, maybe just me).

@ 34 agreed.
"When Johnson called the crowd racists and accused Seattle of practicing "white supremacist liberalism," the more vocal members of the crowd got even more pissed."

Gee! What an absurd reaction to someone accusing an entire crowd (based on their skin color apparently) of something so reprehensible. I can't believe they didn't immediately don party hats and order pizzas for everyone!

"But the majority of the people I talked to at Westlake Park—around 20, I'd say—all said they had showed up to see Bernie Sanders. However, Sanders was due to give a bigger, more Sanders-centric rally two hours later. If they really wanted to see him, why not just chalk up this short speech as a loss, grab some lunch downtown, knock back a glass of rosé, and catch a bus up to the U-District?"

Wow, what an asshole. Maybe they couldn't make the later rally, maybe they just planned to see him in Westlake. Maybe they did head over to the arena and found themselves amongst the 3000 that couldn't get in. Many in the crowd had probably been waiting for hours, it really doesn't matter what they were waiting for or who interrupted; people are not going to take that well.

"BLM seems to be exploiting his relative lack of security detail, his relatively pacifist fans, and the high level of attention he commands in order to amplify their voices."


"The process to hire Symone Sanders started weeks ago, CNN reports. "

"That said, Sanders didn't personally acknowledge the BLM disruptions at the UW rally. He had the chance to say something, but he didn't go off script. I wished he would have."

I'm sure you do and if he had you would wish he had said more or used different words. The BLM activists just wanted the crowd to listen and give four minutes of silence but it wasn't enough!
The more I hear about those two women, the more pathetic they look. They're too cowardly to protest any other candidate. It's like a kid being bullied in school. Instead of standing up to the bullies, they attack the nerdy kid, and then give the lame excuse of "he's part of the system."

What a bunch of fuckers.

I love how they do their best to insult, belittle, and shit all over the work of people trying to improve their lives, and then bitch and moan, "you folks wouldn't care if I lived or died!"

Rich is all righteous about the person who threw a plastic water bottle (You'll shoot your eye out!). "You're not helping." Gee, there are two people who really the fuck aren't helping.

I wish people would stop trying to twist those two naive and ignorant women into some sort of hero. No, they don't have anything original to say. No, their actions were childish. Yes, we should ignore them. Not to marginalize the message (which isn't going away, no matte what those two bimbos do), but to turn out back on naive immaturity. Fuck, there is an entire political party dedicated to naive immaturity. We don't need any more of it.
Bless Symone Sanders for having good, common sense and speaking out for BOTH Bernie Sanders' rhetoric and BLM rhetoric, and for Senator Bernie Sanders for having such brilliant insight to recruit her.

Feel the Bern!
"“The system has never, ever, ever, ever done anything for black people and never will.”" - There's something kind of ironic about someone saying this in regards to an anniversary party for social security, arguably a large system that has done great things for the older black community than most actions we've taken as a society. But social security is for everyone. Why should that count? *eye roll*
Black privilege is committing strong-arm robbery, getting shot after attempting to reach for a police officer's gun, and then being enshrined as a civil rights martyr.

Of all the actual instances of objectionable police conduct, they're honestly still hitching their wagons to the memory of a violent bully? Guess what, not every wannabe gangsta that gets iced after acting like an idiot is the next Emmitt Till. But who needs facts when you have narrative?
I lived in 98118 zip code for 8 years. Hillman City. So. I would describe Columbia City, in the context of greater Rainier Valley, as the white person equivalent of a frontier fort with pointy log walls and barbershops just for kids (!) on the edge of Seattle civilization. That ran Angie's right out of dodge. Which isn't to say I don't still love CC Bakery and still get my hair cut in the strip mall with Ross Dress for Less. But the Seattle area is kind of a big Bellevue at the end of the day, diversity wise.
Also if you talk to folks in the CD, Beacon Hill, and the valley, all the way down to Skyway, they're slowly getting priced out too. Townhomes and Audis as far as the eye can see.
Can anyone corroborate this story about this young woman, Marissa Johnson, as being a Tea Party operator and a former Sarah Palin supporter? I find it very suspicious that these folks don't disrupt GOP candidate rallies, but have done so at Bernie Sanders' rallies. It would be like if the Occupy Wall Street Movement were to disrupt speaking events held by Elizabeth Warren -- it just doesn't make sense. Bernie's a champion for Civil Rights and Racial Equality. He earned his Black Lives Matter card many times over, advocating for Civil Rights and Racial Equality in the 1960's and to the present day. There's an interesting investigative written by reporter Paul Loebe at Reverb Press dot com. The article is from August 10, 2015 and is titled "Black Lives Matter Seattle Protestor Is A Former Tea Party Palin Supporter"

I'm confounded as to the 1st anniversary of the Ferguson shooting...that thug had it coming...and the only reason the "100% off celebration" (and it's first anniversary) happened is because his homies LIED about what thug/cops did and he had a loud mouthed (never around) mama and "daddy"...who stirred the shit up like good little zombies.

Now these BLM asshats (who shoulda been beat off the mic by any self respecting security) are calling all of Seattle racist...talk about crapping your nest.

Seattle gets what it deserves...and they think they're "livin' the dream"...dream on.
"Presidential candidates should expect to be shut down and confronted every step along the way of this presidential campaign. Black people are in a state of emergency. Lines have been drawn in the sand. You are either fighting continuously and measurably to protect Black life in America, or you are a part of the white supremacist system that we will tear down in the liberation of our people." - Thanks for the insight, Dubya.
Exactly who or what is the BLM community trying to speak to or draw attention to? I understand your plight and I wish I had the answers you deserve, but my question is what do you hope to gain by interrupting a planned event that ordinary citizens came out to see and hear. Ok, there was a candidate there, who never had a chance to open his mouth because you decided that the crowd wanted to hear you more than him. I know you want to be heard and I agree that the black community has been unjustly treated. However, Making the crowd mad, and stopping an event people were anxious to see and hear got you what? Attention? Your name in the news? Does it really change anything for the black community. My other question is why did you pick on Bernie Sanders? Why not Hillary Clinton? Because Hillary pretends to be a friend to the black community? Tell me what she's done for you in the 22 years since her and Bill first moved into the white house? If you read and listen to the candidates you'll see that Bernie Sanders is the most honest and open candidate there is. He see's PEOPLE, the American people as a whole, which includes blacks. Out of 20 something candidate he is the ONLY CANDIDATE with INTEGRITY. Don't you think it would be better for your cause to look for the candidate that you truely believe is your best shot at helping you with your cause, elect him and then go after you goals. Disrupting people, making them mad and as some see it, being radical, your only hurting a cause that needs to be addressed. Violence begets violence, but dignity and respect may get a lot more.
If this happens again only at Sanders -- there will be some shit!
Will Black Lives Matter take their outrage to RethugliKlan rallies? If not, then why? ( Feminiazis?)

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