Political conventions have always attracted political protests, and the history of black organizers protesting at major party conventions stretches back decades.
With the 2016 Democratic and Republican conventions approaching, America’s mood is not so tense as it was after the anti-black violence of the 1964 Freedom Summer or the fear and destruction of the 1968 riots after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. It is still characterized in part by anger from black activists, says The Atlantic. Donald Trump’s campaign has brought protests from black organizers, and his racist posturing has led to calls for protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Activism by Black Lives Matter and similar groups could be a major force in shaping or disrupting the agendas of both parties.
At the Democrats’ gathering in Philadelphia, activist and member of Campaign ZERO DeRay Mckesson expects organizing to reflect young black disillusionment over Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and the Democratic platform. Erica Mines of the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice, known for challenging Bill Clinton about his 1994 crime bill at a rally in April, says her group and other black activists will have a presence at the convention in late July. The plans in Philadelphia echo a familiar history of black protests at the Democratic conventions. Will that same spirit of protest spur black activists at the Republican Convention in Cleveland? The city has used much of the $50 million grant from Congress on surveillance of black protesters and have purchased a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) for use in crowd control. The original anti-protest rules for the Cleveland convention were so strict that liberal and conservative grassroots joined forces to defeat them in court.