Bill Clinton Argues With Black Lives Matter Protester, But Who Was Right?

Bill Clinton got into a heated exchange with a Black Lives Matter protester on Thursday, sparring with critics of 90s-era Clinton administration legislation that some view has decimated the black community.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, Clinton was in Philadelphia on Thursday campaigning for Hillary when a group of Black Lives Protesters began holding signs and heckling the former president.

One protester held up a sign that read, “Hillary is a murderer,” according to MSN. Another protester shouted that Hillary should be charged with “crimes against humanity.”

The protesters were taking Clinton to task for a bit of 1994 legislation, the Violent Crime Control and Prevention Act (sometimes referred to as the “crime bill”), that, by some estimates, has had devastating effects on the black community.

Back in the early to middle 1990s, violent crime was surging nationwide, particular in black, inner-cities communities, largely due to the ongoing crack epidemic. In response, Republican legislators crafted the bill, with provisions including mandatory lengthy sentences for certain crimes. Those sentencing requirements are considered at least partially responsible for the mass incarceration epidemic today, an epidemic that disproportionately affects blacks.

Bill Clinton signed the bill into law. Hillary Clinton, at the time the First Lady, also supported it. In fact, at the time, Hillary suggested that the bill was necessary to curtail the rise of so-called “super-predators.”

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Those words have come back to haunt Hillary’s campaign, according to the Washington Post. On Wednesday night, Hillary got into her own spat with a Black Lives Matter protester about those words.

Bill Clinton, however, was the man whose signature enacted the legislation into law, and it was he who got an earful from protesters Thursday in Philadelphia.

Clinton tried to defend the 1994 crime bill in the context of the surge in violent crime that was taking place at the time.

“I don’t know how you characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children. You are defending the people who kill the people whose lives you say matter.”

He also defended the bill by noting that, at the time, he had support from leaders in the black community.

“I talked to a lot of African-American groups — they thought black lives mattered. They said, ‘Take this bill, because our kids are being shot in the street by gangs. We have 13-year-old kids planning their own funerals.'”

At the time Clinton signed the bill, the mood in Washington was one of cooperation and compromise, according to Christian Science Monitor writer Peter Grier — a sharp contrast to the divisive and uncompromising atmosphere that dominates Washington politics today.

Clinton said it was that spirit of compromise that led him to sign the crime bill, even though it contained provisions he didn’t exactly support.

“I had an assault weapons ban in [my version of the bill]. I had money for inner-city kids, for out of school activities, we had 110,000 police officers so we could put people on the street, not in these military vehicles, and the police would look like the people they were policing.”

However, Republicans at the time demanded that Clinton include harsher sentencing guidelines in the bill as a compromise to keep the assault weapons ban.

Whether or not Bill Clinton’s signing of the crime bill — and Hillary Clinton’s support of it — will be detrimental the Clinton campaign remains to be seen.

[Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images]

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