black lives matter jeb bush
Tenisha Martin holds her daughter Maddie and yells "black lives matter" after Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush spoke at a campaign event in North Las Vegas, Nevada August 12, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush found himself drowned out to chants of “ black lives matter ” at a recent campaign event in Nevada after Black Lives Matter activists were unsatisfied with an answer he gave to a question about institutional racism. Activists identifying with the loosely organized Black Lives Matter movement have been dogging presidential primary candidates in recent weeks. Bush’s campaign told multiple press outlets that the Gov. had met personally with representatives of the Black Lives Matter faction. Those statements -- made to the Washington Post and NBC and others -- appear to be false, exaggerated, or misinformed, according to reporting by the Huffington Post’s Dana Liebelson . She explains what that face-to-face meeting described by the Jeb Bush campaign was really about:

“The private meeting was about fifteen minutes long, according to those who attended. Goynes-Brown told HuffPost that the meeting did not focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, although attendees did discuss criminal justice issues. Goynes-Brown said she strongly supports the movement, but would not call herself an activist.”

There was no other meeting with racial justice groups or representatives, according to Liebelson , who spoke with members of the Black Lives Matter group that interrupted Bush’s event. Apparently, Bush’s representatives repeatedly reached out to activists for a meeting, but they were not interested. In fairness to the Bush camp, Black Lives Matter is not a centrally organized campaign, and there may be some confusion among staffers as to who represents the movement and how. At the same time, ignorance of movement dynamics does not look good to minority activists.

The confrontation started with a long question/comment from one of the activists, according to video footage of the event. The activist, reportedly Jamie Hall asked Bush to speak about the prison industrial complex, deaths of minorities at the hands of police, and other issues. He didn’t exactly answer the question, but he didn’t entirely ignore it either.

“Look, we have serious problems and these problems have gotten worse in the last few years [....] Communities no longer trust the basic institutions in our society that the need to trust to create... it needs work,” Bush said at the event, saying that leaders needed to respond to the gravity of the problem because “perceptions become reality” and that “racism exists in America.”

Activists present were not happy with Bush’s responses to the question, and interrupted him to demand a more direct answer. The meeting devolved from there, and ended in a shouting match. Attendants of Bush’s campaign reportedly shouted “white lives matter” and “all lives matter” back at the activists who shook up the event.

Activists claiming to represent Black Lives Matter have been criticized by members of their own movement in recent weeks. If keeping racial justice issues in the press is the goal of the movement, they're winning regardless.

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