President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett met with Black Lives Matter activists yesterday at the White House, the latest sign that the Obama administration is involved with the controversial protest group.
Jarrett met with three organizers for Campaign Zero. DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Johnetta Elzie as well as Phil Agnew of the Dream Defenders and Jamye Wooten, an organizer for Baltimore United for Change were there, according to a senior White House official who confirmed the visit to Buzzfeed.
After the meeting, Packnett tweeted a selfie with Jarrett thanking her for engaging the movement.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) September 17, 2015
“Great meeting, Brittany. Truly appreciate your leadership!!” Jarrett replied on Twitter. Packnett has six recorded entries of visiting the complex long before the protests in Ferguson. She also was among the select group of Ferguson activists that met with Obama in December 2014. “I could tell he is taking this very personally,” Packnett explained after the 45 minute meeting with the president in the Oval Office. “He wants to see some clear, thoughtful action come from this.”
She also revealed that Obama sympathized with the movement, thanks to his background as a community organizer in Chicago.
“He offered us a lot of encouragement with his background as a community organizer, and told us that even incremental changes were progress,” she told reporters after the meeting. “He didn’t want us to get discouraged. He said, ‘Keep speaking truth to power.’”
Packnett was also selected as a member of Obama’s presidential task force on 21st century policing – and has a long record of activism in St. Louis including some time spent in Washington D.C.
In past interviews, she described herself as the “bridge” between Ferguson protestors and Washington D.C.
She also help turn the Ferguson protests into a nationwide movement, after launching a newsletter of information relevant to the protests, spreading the #blacklivesmatter hashtag and helping the movement draft op-eds and documents.
As the Ferguson protests grew, she wrote her own story about her father, a Baptist pastor and a college professor who was “thrown against the hood of his imported car and beaten as my brother watched, screaming and crying.”
“I believe in non-violent civil action. I know that riots solve nothing. But I understand what Dr. King meant when he told Mike Wallace ‘a riot is the language of the unheard,’ nearly 50 years ago,” she wrote. “And in a community long overlooked, underserved, and continually harassed by law enforcement, the pressure finally burst the proverbial pipe.”
The group of activists also met with Roy Austin, the director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs.