Protesters march next to One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan in New York City as thousands of demonstrators take to the streets demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, on Dec. 4, 2014.
Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Black Lives Matter to host Democratic presidential town hall


Major groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement will host Democratic presidential candidates for a town hall focusing on social and racial justice.

The Democratic National Committee approved the extra forum for 2016 hopefuls on Wednesday, but remained steadfast against adding another candidate debate to the schedule, according to letters first obtained by the Washington Post. 

The letters, sent from the DNC to prominent activist groups the #BlackLivesMatter network and Campaign Zero, affirm the party’s support of the growing social movement and heed their request to hold a forum that explicitly addresses issues of race and social justice.

“We believe that your organization would be an ideal host for a presidential candidate forum — where all of the Democratic candidates can showcase their ideas and policy positions that will expand opportunity for all, strengthen the middle class and address racism in America,” Amy K. Dacey, chief executive officer of the DNC, wrote in the letters obtained by the Post. “The DNC would be happy to help promote the event.”

The Democratic Party has seen factions within its ranks in recent weeks over the number of debates scheduled for candidates – top leaders and candidates have pressured for more head-to-heads. But the inclusion of a racial justice themed forum speaks to the outsized political clout activist organizations have earned in a social movement that is little more than a year old. Grassroots groups created in the aftermath of unarmed black teen Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last August have sparked a nationwide push for social justice and police reform. 

The groups’ influence has extended into the political arena, with Black Lives Matter provisions now included in the Democratic Party’s official plank and candidates rushing to court their favor after stumbling in the past. But prominent leaders within the Black Lives Matter umbrella have said that is not enough. After seeing just one question directly address race and police reform in the first Democratic presidential debate earlier this months, groups have been in talks with the DNC for a racial justice-specific forum.

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent leader in the movement with a wide-reaching social media presence, told The Washington Post that he hopes to team up with the social network Twitter in hosting the candidate town hall.