DNC and RNC Won’t Add a Debate, but Give Their Blessings to Black Lives Matter Presidential Town Hall

Wesley Lowery, Washington Post, October 21, 2015

Both major political parties have given their blessing to two of the most prominent activist groups associated with the Black Lives Matter protest movement–the #BlackLivesMatter network and Campaign Zero–to host a presidential town hall focused on issues of racial justice.

Activists had called on the Democratic National Committee to add an additional presidential debate to its schedule, however both the DNC and the Republican National Committee have said they will not alter their formal debate schedule. Instead, both parties have said they would support the activists hosting a townhall or forum–which would not be a formal debate and the 2016 candidates could participate without fear of repercussion from their parties.

In letters addressed to leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter network and prominent activist DeRay Mckesson, the DNC invited the activist groups to coordinate and host a presidential town hall similar to those currently being planned by some state-level Democratic parties and some liberal groups including MoveOn.org.

‘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,” wrote Amy K. Dacey, chief executive officer of the DNC, in the letters which were obtained by The Post. “The DNC would be happy to help promote the event.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the RNC noted that while its official debate schedule has long been finalized, about 30 presidential forums like the one Mckesson is proposing have been previously announced.

“We continue to encourage our candidates to speak with all voters when given the opportunity,” said Orlando Watson, a spokesman for the RNC. “This presidential candidate forum, like Senator Tim Scott’s town halls, is such an opportunity.”

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In an interview on Wednesday, Black Lives Matter organizer Elle Hearns said the umbrella group had yet to decide if it would proceed with an attempt to host a town hall, and said that she was still personally disappointed that the DNC will not sanction an additional debate.

“Their response to our request is unsatisfactory,’ Hearns said, and added that it is irresponsible for the Democratic National Committee to host so few debates. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be more mindful of her responsibility not only to the DNC, but to the American people.”

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[Editor’s Note: The Black Lives Matter group has rejected the DNC’s proposed townhall. According to a statement released by the group, “We remain unequivocal that a presidential town hall with support from the DNC does not sufficiently respond to the concerns raised by our members. We want a debate supported by the DNC that will speak directly and proactively to the issues impacting black people in this country.”]

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