DeRay McKesson, one of the top organizers for the Black Lives Matter movement, is seeking a meeting with presidential aspirant Marco Rubio. The request for a meeting follows comments in which Rubio seemed to lend his personal support to the group’s anti-cop rhetoric.
In a recent tweet, McKesson said, “@MarcoRubio, I just saw your recent interview re: the movement. Will you meet to discuss the issues, and solutions, further?”
McKesson has in many ways become a spokesman for the Black Lives Matter movement–having been recognized by Fortune Magazine for his work with the protesters, and getting to lead a workshop as a guest lecturer at Yale University to discuss the movement and topics such as “In Defense of Looting“.
The Rubio interview McKesson is referring to took place in August on Fox News’ The Kelly File, in which Rubio was sympathetic to the cause of the Black Lives Matter activists.
Rubio said that concerns held by the controversial protesters are “legitimate” and suggested that “resentment” for law enforcement was understandable. Rubio said he would be “upset” if he were in the same position in which he alleged black Americans find themselves with police:
This is a legitimate issue… It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community… I have one friend in particular who’s been stopped in the last 18 months eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped — just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I’d be wondering what’s going on here. I’d be upset about it. So would anybody else.
Rubio’s comments could be a source of controversy for his fledgling campaign, as many members of the movement have taken a violent stance against police officers. Earlier this year, some protestors began an anti-police chant, shouting, “Pigs in a blanket! Fry ‘em like bacon!”
Twenty-seven police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year alone.
Rubio’s comments could also further widen a potential rift between Rubio’s priorities and law enforcements’ priorities– a rift which traces back to his days in Florida state politics.
As Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio allowed legislation to die which would have clamped down on the state’s sanctuary cities–a move that has allowed Miami to become one of the nation’s most steadfast protectors of illegal immigrant criminals. This move won the praise of activists. Arturo Vargas, the executive director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said in 2010, “[Rubio] as speaker, kept many of those from coming up to a vote… We were very proud of his work as speaker of the House.”
Similarly, the top representative for our nation’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers said Rubio had “directly misled law enforcement” and that the Gang of Eight bill would permanently “handcuff” his fellow officers.
Rubio’s comments on The Kelly File do not appear to be offhanded, but rather have become part of his campaign platform.
During an August speech at a Detroit Economic Club meeting, when asked about police shootings and the narrative that minority communities have strained relationships with law enforcement, Rubio again used the same word — “legitimate” — to describe claims that blacks in America today are being held back by white racism:
We can’t ignore as a reality that in many communities in this country, the relationships between minority communities and the police and law enforcement are terrible… We can’t ignore that this country does have a legacy of racial discrimination… Listen, 60 years ago– 50 years ago, it was legal to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin. This doesn’t just go away over night. You can change laws, but the impact of that remains. This is a legitimate issue. We need to confront it as a nation.
Rubio explained that addressing this “legacy of racial discrimination” will require government intervention, evidently in addition to existing programs such as affirmative action : “We do have to address it. A lot of it involves government action. A lot of it involves societal action as well. And I hope we’ll take that seriously.”
Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald has explained that soft policing, as Rubio seems to be advocating, will only hurt innocent civilians living in inner city communities with higher crime levels
The closer one is to crime and disorder, the greater one’s support for proactive enforcement. Slightly more black than white voters said they want the police to ‘actively issue summonses or make arrests’ in their neighborhood for quality-of-life offenses: 61 percent of black voters wanted such summons and arrests, with 33 percent opposed, versus 59 percent of white voters in support, with 37 percent opposed.
Interestingly, McKesson’s overture to Rubio does not seem to be based on his belief that Rubio is a politician of conviction, but rather that Rubio is someone who is willing to make deals. During the first Republican debate, McKesson tweeted,”Rubio is well prepared. He has thought about his answers. But he just doesn’t even pretend to be sincere. It’s odd.”
Rubio’s rhetoric echoes progressive rhetoric that black progress is impeded by institutional racism rather than leftwing policies. Those who say policies — not racism — are responsible for endemic black poverty would argue that Rubio’s platform of mass immigration and open door trade would only further impoverish blacks.
By contrast, Trump’s populist trio of toughening trade enforcement, immigration enforcement, and law enforcement, have helped him rise to historic highs with black voters.
Trump has said that the Black Lives Matter protesters are “a disgrace” and that those who pander to the anti-police movement are “unfit to run for office.” After Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley pandered to the group, Trump called him a “disgusting little weak, pathetic baby.” Trump has been known for his tough-on-crime attitude for years–declaring in 1989: “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins!”