Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Friday praised the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I actually believe, as a former prosecutor, that Black Lives Matter has been the most significant agent for change within the criminal justice system, because it has been a counterforce to the force within the system that is so grounded in status quo and in its own traditions, many of which have been harmful and have been discriminatory in the way that they’ve been enforced,” Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, told the virtual audience at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention.
Harris said the people behind the movement were brilliant and history would show the conception “as an inflection point in the ongoing fight for justice.”
“I’m going to interpret these protests as an essential component of evolution in our country, as an essential component, a mark of a real democracy and as necessary, as necessary,” she added.
“The people’s voices must be heard. It is often the people who must speak to get their government to do what it is supposed to do, but may not do naturally unless the people speak loudly, and obviously peacefully, but speak loudly.”
Harris was criticized by some for her comments, including Steve Guest, a rapid response director for the GOP.
“After months of left-wing violence, Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris says these protests are an essential part of our ‘evolution’ as a country,” he wrote on Twitter.
Harris’s praise of Black Lives Matter stands in stark contrast with President Donald Trump and other top Republicans, who have repeatedly criticized the movement, pointing to its anti-police messaging and bouts of violence.
Trump said in one interview that the first time he heard of the group was when he heard them chanting “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” a reference to killing police officers.
“That was the first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter. I said, that’s a terrible name. It’s so discriminatory, it’s bad for black people, it’s bad for everybody,” he said.
Attorney General William Barr charged earlier this month that Black Lives Matter is pushing a political agenda.
“As a proposition, who can quarrel with the proposition, ‘black lives matter’? But they’re not interested in black lives, they’re interested in props,” he said.
“A small number of blacks that are killed by police during conflict with police, usually less than a dozen a year, who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.”
The Black Lives Matter Global Network hasn’t responded to requests for comment about criticism of the movement.
Patrisse Cullors, one of its founders, who has described herself as a Marxist, said in a recent statement that the movement was working “to connect black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their respective communities.”
“We believe those of all religious views and backgrounds, or disbelief; all genders as equal; black lives not being eradicated using guns and knees in our necks; the elimination of the constant betrayal of our poor and oppressed communities; and, certainly, continuing to foster a united country that works for everyone despite their actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, disability, immigration status, or intergenerational way of life,” she added.
The group says its mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities by the state and vigilantes.” It listed other goals, like disrupting the family structure, but quietly removed those from its website.