A leaked 2015 internal Democrat Party memo warned top House Democrats not to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement because it was described by the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as a “radical movement.”
The memo, from then-DCCC official Troy Perry addressed to “DCCC Staff” on Thursday Nov. 19, 2015, noted that the Democrats’ 2016 presidential candidates “have struggled to respond to tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement.” Perry was at the time he wrote this the DCCC’s Director of Diversity and Public Engagement.
“While there has been little engagement with House candidates, candidates and campaign staff should be prepared,” Perry wrote.
The DCCC is the official arm of the Democrat Party charged with electing Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives. When this 2015 memo was drafted, Democrats were in the minority in the U.S. House—seeking a return to the majority that they did not achieve in the 2016 elections as now President Donald Trump won the White House and the GOP held its House majority riding the president’s coattails. Later, though, Democrats would win the House majority back in the 2018 midterm elections.
Perry warned recipients of his memo in the next line that it was top secret and confidential—not to be shared with anyone. “This document should not be emailed or handed to anyone outside of the building,” he wrote. “Please only give campaign staff these best practices in meetings or over the phone.”
But the document ended up leaking through hacker Guccifer 2.0 in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election late in the summer of 2016, just after Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton had secured the nomination and the general election kicked off.
In the two-page memo, the then-DCCC official Perry described Black Lives Matter as a “radical movement” intent on ending “anti-black racism.”
“Though police abuses are a central component, the founders view the movement more broadly,” the Democrat memo reads.
It continues by noting that Black Lives Matter also seeks “Criminal Justice Reform,” particularly “sentencing reform, ending prison industrial complex, police reform: referring to hiring, training, and unfair policing tactics.”
The movement also, per the Democrat memo, seeks an “end to police brutality” and stopping of “killings of unarmed African Americans.” It notes that the Black Lives Matter movement has it roots in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Hispanic man who killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, during Barack Obama’s presidency. To achieve these goals, the Democrat memo continues, Black Lives Matter pushes to “collect data on police shootings” and for a “demilitarization of the police.”
The DCCC memo then elaborates on recommended tactics for Democrats to handle Black Lives Matter activists. When meeting with them, the Democrats warned against large gatherings.
“If approached by BLM activists, campaign staff should offer to meet with local activists,” the Democrat memo reads. “Invited BLM attendees should be limited. Please aim for personal or small group meetings.”
In this section, the Democrats warn their members and candidates against supporting anything Black Lives Matter activists are pushing them to back. “Listen to their concerns,” the memo says, but “don’t offer support for concrete policy positions.”
The memo also recommends that Democrats “lead from behind” when it comes to Black Lives Matter, as it says the burgeoning movement “needs partners” but its members are “leary of politicians who hijack their message to win campaigns.”
“This response will garner additional media scrutiny and only anger BLM activists,” the memo adds on this point. “This is the worst response.”
The final part of the memo recommends Democrat talking points in response to Black Lives Matter. The memo explicitly tells Democrats not to say “all lives matter” and warns them to not speak of “black on black crime.” This is because, the memo notes, Black Lives Matter activists consider these points “red herring attacks.”
The document concludes by providing Democrats with talking points about what to say, including that “many communities in America feel unfairly targeted by police and it’s an issue that requires addressing” as “evidenced by the DOJ Ferguson Report.” It recommends exploring “reforms to ensure officers are properly trained and don’t infringe on citizens’ rights” and holding “police accountable to their actions when it’s a clear case of wrongdoing” while rebuilding “the relationship between police and community; ensuring officers are not just in the community when something bad is happening.” It also admits “a history of systemic racism” that “continues to confront the daily lives of African Americans,” and the memo says America “must look for ways to address this legacy and make sure Africans American feel they are treated with fairness and dignity.”
The Black Lives Matter movement was furious with the DCCC memo at the time of the leak, issuing its own response denouncing the top Democrat Party officials for being dismissive of the growing group.
“We are disappointed at the DCCC’s placating response to our demand to value all Black life. Black communities deserve to be heard, not handled. People are dying,” the official Black Lives Matter Facebook page said in response:
Whether Republican, Democrat or otherwise, our elected officials have an ethical and democratic responsibility to make legislation that reflects the needs of their constituents. That includes Black people facing life-threatening challenges because of racist, failed policies. We demand, and are fighting every day for, a radical transformation of American democracy where all Black lives are valued. We expect that our elected officials will stop pacifying and take us seriously.
The author of the secret Black Lives Matter memo, Perry, was at the time the DCCC’s “Director of Diversity and Public Engagement.” He would later become the “Regional Expansion States Director” for Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. After Clinton lost, he joined the congressional office of then-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) as the “Director of Member Services & Outreach.”
Crowley, his boss on Capitol Hill, infamously lost one of the highest profile primary battles in history back in 2018 to now Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Ocasio-Cortez has been an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter and its policy positions despite these previous warnings from Democrats of the movement’s “radical” nature, embracing the more extreme “Defund the Police” push from Black Lives Matter activists and pushing her fellow Democrats to the more extreme positions of this issue set.
At the time the document was released, in addition to Breitbart News coverage of it, it received widespread attention on the left given the controversial nature of Democrats proactively distancing themselves from the then-still-growing “radical” Black Lives Matter movement.
Julia Craven, one such writer from the left then at HuffPost, now at Slate, described how the document came to light. In particular, she wrote, the hacker Guccifer 2.0 claimed it came from the personal computer of then-House Minority Leader, now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—something Pelosi denied at the time. What’s more, Democrats previewed what would become of their years-long strategy to dismiss controversial internal document releases as simply Russian hackers—without addressing or minimizing and avoiding the content of such documents.
Craven wrote in HuffPost.:
The document was posted online by Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who has claimed to be responsible for the Democratic National Committee email leak. Guccifer claims the document is from the personal computer of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). A number of cybersecurity firms and Democrats have attributed the leaks to Russian hackers (though Guccifer 2.0 has denied working for the Kremlin).
Pelosi’s office, in a statement to HuffPost for the August 2016 article, said the document did not come from her computer, and blamed the Russians for it leaking.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s staffer, told HuffPost:
This attempt by Russia to influence our election has no place in our democracy. In addition, Leader Pelosi does not have a personal computer at the DCCC so no hacked, dumped or doctored documents can be attributed to her computer.
Hammill’s statement continued by claiming that Pelosi did not support the memo’s content advising Democrats to distance themselves from the “radical” Black Lives Matter movement. Hammill said:
In regard to the memo about Black Lives Matter, Leader Pelosi does not support the content or attitude of this memo. On many occasions, Leader Pelosi has publicly supported the ideals embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement and continues to do so.
The DCCC actually distanced itself from the content of its own memo when it leaked, with then-spokeswoman Meredith Kelly issuing a statement to HuffPost stating Democrats respected the Black Lives Matter movement. Kelly said at the time:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee highly respects and values the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement. In less than two years, BLM has evolved from three words into a political force that is changing and waking our nation. At the DCCC, we highly encourage our candidates to not only embrace the importance of this movement, but to meet with and listen to community activists to partner social change.
But again, as recently as late 2015, the official Democrat Party recommendations for dealing with Black Lives Matter were to treat the “radical movement” with caution and avoid agreeing to any specific policy prescriptions its activists were promoting. While the top Democrats from the DCCC through Pelosi did also issue statements at the time the document leaked in 2016 expressing support for Black Lives Matter—while also blaming the Russians for the hack—their statements were not nearly as big as the embrace Democrats have greeted Black Lives Matter with in recent weeks as riots and protests have swept the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Pelosi, now again the Speaker of the House, has kneeled before the movement—as have several other top Democrats—for nearly nine minutes as part of a protest representing how long now former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of Floyd.