A Black Lives Matter organizer whose remarks this week prompted pushback from President Donald Trump said he’s open to meeting with the Republican commander-in-chief.
“I’ll talk to anyone as long as they have an open mind about ending systemic racism,” Hawk Newsome, chairperson of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, told The Epoch Times.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. Trump recently met with family members of minorities who have been killed in recent years, primarily by police officers, before signing an executive order on police reform.
Newsome declined to cite specific studies for the claim of systemic racism, saying there’s “volumes of studies” about inequality between black and white Americans, studies showing mass incarceration was wrong and racist, and that wealth disparities among blacks and whites are race-based.
Newsome said during a cable news appearance late Wednesday, “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.”
He also said he didn’t condone or condemn the rioting that’s consumed cities across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Newsome told The Epoch Times that he feels Trump “is trying to get reelected and he’ll say and do anything.”
“He’s extremely upset because he understands that he pushed this country and the people in it to a boiling point and now that it’s there he wants to blame someone,” Newsome alleged, adding, “He shouldn’t blame anyone but himself.”
The push against alleged police brutality and racial injustice has no leader, Newsome said.
“It’s not that there’s anyone controlling the people, this is a leaderless movement. the bottom line is, some of us know what the temperature is in the streets, and amongst the people,” he said.
Asked about people who say violence doesn’t bring about change, he pointed to the American Revolution and what he described as peaceful attempts in recent years to enact change.
“We’ve been marching for five years and nothing happened, and then when people took to the streets in anger and frustration, people who don’t usually march take to the streets in anger and frustration, look at what happened,” he said, citing the firing of police officers, the charging of an officer in New York City with strangulation, and laws being enacted in various locales that include restrictions on police officers.
Newsome said he couldn’t say yes or no when presented with the possibility that Black Lives Matter activists participated in the destruction in Minneapolis, Washington, and other cities.
“But there are a lot of frustrated people out there, right?” he said, noting that two rioters arrested in New York for allegedly hurling Molotov cocktails at police were attorneys.
If Trump is serious about fixing the problems in America he would have went onto the website of Black Opportunities, which Newsome helped start, the organizer said.
Legislative priorities listed on the website include an act titled “I Can’t Breathe,” which would require law enforcement officers to provide medical care to an inmate or person in custody if they need it and enable prosecution of officers who fail to do so.
Another legislative priority is banning the use of chokeholds and disabling police unions.
Newsome said he was surprised Trump was the one who got criminal justice reform accomplished through the First Step Act, as opposed to Democrats, but activists feel both Republicans and Democrats are operating in the best interests of corporations and their backers instead of the best interests of the people.
Newsome is reluctantly supporting Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
“I feel as though as we can get further with Joe Biden. I feel like he would be a more productive president,” he said.
“I don’t think that there will be substantial changes under Joe Biden,” he added, citing Biden’s track record in the Senate and as vice president and calling Biden “the typical Democrat” who enacts only “moderate change.”
“What we need is radical changes. We need reparations, we need the defunding of the police, we need a strong commitment to pass the ‘I Can’t Breathe Act,'” he said.