Elliot Smilowitz and Megan R. Wilson, The Hill, August 10, 2015
Protesters who claimed affiliation with the Black Lives Matter movement stormed the stage during a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Seattle on Saturday, taking over the microphone and forcing Sanders to leave without ever speaking.
Moments after Sanders took the stage at Westlake Park, two women and one man climbed the stage and confronted the Democratic presidential candidate, demanding a chance to speak.
After several moments of confusion and confrontation, an event organizer took the microphone and said the protesters would be allowed to speak before Sanders. Some in the crowd booed.
One protester, who identified herself as Marissa Johnson, began by saying, “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is–with all of its progressives–but you’ve already done that for me. Thank you.”
Johnson spoke, among other things, about police violence in Seattle, mentioning a federal investigation into the city’s law enforcement that resulted in the appointment of a monitor to make sure Seattle police were complying with the terms set forth by the Justice Department.
“Bernie says that he’s all about the people and about grassroots. The biggest grassroots movement in this country right now is Black Lives Matter,” she added.
She then mentioned the anniversary event that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement–the shooting of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
Johnson requested four-and-a-half minutes of silence from the crowd, to honor the four-and-a-half hours Brown allegedly laid dead in the street after being killed.
Some in the crowd jeered the protesters and yelled “get off the stage,” but others replied “let her talk.”
At times, shouts of “arrest her” were audible.
After the four-and-a-half minutes, protesters did not relinquish the stage.
“If you care about Black Lives Matter, as you say you do, you will hold Bernie Sanders specifically accountable for his actions,” Johnson continued.
After the protesters and organizers continued the confrontation on stage, Sanders waved to the crowd and walked off the stage.
[Editor’s Note: According to another account, “When the crowd asked the activists to allow Sanders to speak, one activist called the crowd ‘white supremacist liberals,’ according to event participants.”]