Bill Clinton attempting to address Black Lives Matter protesters. (Screen shot from Washington Free Beacon)

“Here’s the thing. I like protesters, but the ones that won’t let you answer are afraid of the truth,” said Bill Clinton on Thursday. The remark came as the former president engaged in a feisty debate with protesters from the activist group Black Lives Matter while speaking at a Philadelphia campaign event for his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A group of BLM protesters who had made their way to the front of the stage held signs apparently referring to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which President Clinton signed into law during his first term in office and which then-first lady Hillary defended at the time.

“Clinton crime bill destroyed our communities,” one sign read. Bill Clinton first tried to respond calmly to an interruption, bringing up Hillary’s experience trying to bring “health care to poor kids” and rattling off crime statistics.

Eventually, though, he more directly responded to the protesters, appearing to grow angrier as they continued to shout at him. Clinton attacked what he evidently saw as the hypocrisy of the Black Lives Matter movement, retorting, “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She [Hillary] didn’t. She didn’t. You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter.”

Interestingly, Bill Clinton had renounced his support of this very bill over a year ago, stating that it cast “too wide a net.” And while he may be proud of the lowered crime statistics, there remains a nationwide epidemic of people of color, particularly black males, being imprisoned for nonviolent offenses. Also, as recently reported by Harper’s Magazine, one of President Nixon’s advisers stated that the “war on drugs” was created as a political plan to disenfranchise communities of color. Clinton’s remark that his legislation got African-American drug dealers off the streets is tragically ironic, considering that the establishment he is a part of helped fuel the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Both Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters before and released comprehensive policy plans soon after. But Bill Clinton’s interaction with activists Thursday shows that the racial tensions inherent in American history remain a crucial, yet largely unanswered, issue in this election.

Watch the full video of Bill Clinton’s interaction with the protesters below:

–Posted by Emma Niles

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