Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford are coming under fire just hours after they took the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle to promote their Black Lives Matter movement, eventually shutting down the event and forcing the presidential candidate to forgo his planned speech.
Both Johnson and Willaford jumped around a barricade at Saturday’s event, crashing the stage and taking a microphone that Sanders was holding as he began to address the crowd. They were joined by close to a dozen protesters from the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter who made their way to the front of the crowd.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose in response to a number of high-profile police killings of young black men. It has become a nationwide movement with chapters in many major cities.
At Saturday’s event, Johnson and Willaford clashed with organizers, arguing loudly that they be able to speak. An event organizer promised they could speak after Sen. Sanders, but they demanded to be given the microphone.
As the crowd began to boo the protesters, they turned angrier.
“My name is Marissa Janae Johnson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seattle,” she said as the boos grew louder. “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you already did it for me, thank you.
“You are never going to hear Bernie speak if I don’t hear silence now,” said Johnson, adding later, “Now that you’ve covered yourself in your white supremacist liberalism, I will formally welcome Bernie Sanders to Seattle.”
Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford came under more fire after the event, gaining criticism for their tactics and their decision to protest Bernie Sanders, one of the most progressive candidates. Sanders has a history of supporting the Civil Rights Movement, and actually marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1963 March on Washington.
“I think it is unfortunate because, among other things, I wanted to talk about the issues of black lives, the fact that the American people are tired of seeing unarmed African-Americans shot and killed,” Sanders told CNN after the event. “But there are other issues as well that we have to talk about, and that is the fact that the middle class of this country is disappearing and most importantly, we don’t bring change in this country… unless all people stand together. That is what we have to do.”
Others are calling out Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford, saying that by choosing Sanders to protest they seemed to care more about gaining attention for themselves than furthering their cause.
This was not the first time that Bernie Sanders was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters. At an appearance at the Netroots Nation event earlier this year he was also driven from the stage by protesters.
Hot Air noted that Sanders is now being “held hostage” by the aggressive protesters.
“This is truly remarkable. At this point, Bernie Sanders has essentially surrendered his campaign to a group of protesters. He has now twice been driven from his own stage. At the first event, the candidate apparently was part of a scheduled event where all the proper permits were obtained and the rules were followed. But as soon as he arrived at the podium he allowed someone with no scheduled access to the facilities to physically take the microphone away from him, change the agenda to include a moment of silence and then berate him. In response he fled the scene.”
The interruption from Black Lives Matter protesters Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford didn’t seen to slow Bernie Sanders down much. On Sunday he had another event, one that drew 15,000 people. It went forward without a hitch.
[Image via Instagram]