Yesterday, sections of the social media world went rife with the news that Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams, protested at a private Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina. The hashtag #AshleyWilliams is currently being used to show both support and disdain for the activist who asked Clinton for an apology with regard to mass incarceration, and specifically her explicit description of urban youth as “super predators” in 1996.
While several mainstream media sources are claiming that Williams “crashed” or “trespassed” the event, Williams paid $500 for attendance. When Clinton was speaking about gun reform and criminal justice, Williams took to the center with a sign that said, “We have to bring them to heel,” which Clinton had also said in 1996, referencing the urban youth she had described as “super predators”. Awkwardly, Clinton read the sign and Williams told her plainly, “We want you to apologize for mass incarceration.”
In the last year, it has become increasingly known that Clinton’s husband and former president Bill Clinton, initiated policies that resulted in the current mass incarceration dilemma. As first lady, Hillary lobbied and influenced bills that resulted in the current problems that contribute to the prison industrial complex. Recently, The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander wrote a scathing piece as to why Hillary Clinton does not deserve the black vote. Alexander, along with notable black intellectuals and scholars such as Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates, appear to be supporting Bernie Sanders in his bid for the Democratic nomination. It should be noted that Coates has made it clear that his support does not constitute an “endorsement” per se, but rather an honest answer as to who he will be voting for in the Primary elections.
Williams’ actions will be seen by Clinton supporters as “aggressive” and “inappropriate” – words that have already been used to describe it by social media users commenting on the video. In the video itself, voices can be heard saying, “you’re being rude” and “this is not appropriate”. Williams was soon escorted out of the event by staff. Clinton dismissed the interruption with an, “Okay. Back to the issues.”
Much will be made of this event by both Williams’ supporters and Clinton’s supporters, who may or may not be mutually exclusive. Although judging by the hashtag #WhichHilary that ensued after the social media public became aware of the incident, and insinuated that Clinton has two faces with regard to her political opinions and voting records, Williams has clearly triggered yet another widespread Clinton criticism.
But it is perhaps most important to keep in mind that part of what makes a democracy attractive, at least in theory, is dissent. Dissent to those in power and to power itself. Dissent for the sake of change and dissent to be heard. Dissent to hold leaders and potential leaders accountable for their words and actions. Rightly or wrongly, Williams did just that – dissent. And rightly or wrongly, dissent is often confrontational, and it certainly needn’t be amicable.
Watch the video of the incident below and listen to Williams explain her actions here.