WASHINGTON ― “Don’t offer support” for the “concrete policy positions” of Black Lives Matter protesters, the chief organization charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives warned its candidates in an internal memo leaked online on Wednesday.
The document was posted online by Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who has claimed to be responsible for the Democratic National Committee email leak. Guccifer claims the document is from the personal computer of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). A number of cybersecurity firms and Democrats have attributed the leaks to Russian hackers (though Guccifer 2.0 has denied working for the Kremlin).
“Presidential candidates have struggled to respond to tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement,” reads the memo, sent by a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer in November. “While there has been little engagement with House candidates, candidates and campaign staff should be prepared. This document should not be emailed or handed to anyone outside of the building. Please only give campaign staff these best practices in meetings or over the phone.”
Black Lives Matter has become a force during the 2016 election by repeatedly calling on presidential candidates to address the systemic inequalities faced by black Americans. The movement has offered policy suggestions, held demonstrations and interrupted presidential campaign speeches in order to call attention to anti-black racism.
The memo, which describes BLM as a “radical movement” that aims to “end ‘anti-black racism,’” lists several suggestions for how Democratic congressional candidates should handle an encounter with a Black Lives Matter activist.
“If approached by BLM activists, campaign staff should offer to meet with local activists,” the memo reads. “Invited BLM attendees should be limited. Please aim for personal or small group meetings.”
“Listen to their concerns,” it continues. “Don’t offer support for concrete policy positions.”
The memo includes advice on what, exactly, to say to Black Lives Matter activists. It recommends avoiding phrases like “all lives matter” and warns not to bring up “black on black crime,” since the “response will garner additional media scrutiny and only anger BLM activists.”
House Democrats were also advised to say that police violence requires a national conversation, and to acknowledge that “a history of systemic racism continues to confront the daily lives of African Americans.”
“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee highly respects and values the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Meredith Kelly, national press secretary for the DCCC, said in a statement Wednesday. “In less than two years, BLM has evolved from three words into a political force that is changing and waking our nation. At the DCCC, we highly encourage our candidates to not only embrace the importance of this movement, but to meet with and listen to community activists to partner social change.”
“We will not allow this hacking to distract from our common goals nor disparage the BLM movement,” Kelly went on. “We continue to welcome further engagement with activists and BLM leaders nationwide.”
There have been a number of policy recommendations from various organizations committed to improving black life, including many groups and activists connected to Black Lives Matter. Among these recommendations are police demilitarization; the elimination of police profiling; decriminalizing sex work and marijuana; funding schools instead of prisons; and pushing for workers’ rights.
Later Wednesday, Black Lives Matter posted a statement on Facebook in response to the memo, urging the DCCC to read up on the movement’s policy suggestions:
We are disappointed at the DCCC’s placating response to our demand to value all Black life. Black communities deserve to be heard, not handled. People are dying.
Whether Republican, Democrat or otherwise, our elected officials have an ethical and democratic responsibility to make legislation that reflects the needs of their constituents. That includes Black people facing life-threatening challenges because of racist, failed policies.
We demand, and are fighting every day for, a radical transformation of American democracy where all Black lives are valued. We expect that our elected officials will stop pacifying and take us seriously.
We encourage all policymakers and elected officials to read the Movement for Black Lives policy platform and commit to legislation in the first 100 days that ensures that #BlackLivesMatter.
In a statement Thursday, Pelosi’s office tied the hack to Russia and said the document didn’t come from her computer.
“This attempt by Russia to influence our election has no place in our democracy. In addition, Leader Pelosi does not have a personal computer at the DCCC so no hacked, dumped or doctored documents can be attributed to her computer,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, told HuffPost. “In regard to the memo about Black Lives Matter, Leader Pelosi does not support the content or attitude of this memo. On many occasions, Leader Pelosi has publicly supported the ideals embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement and continues to do so.”
This story has been updated with news of the Black Lives Matter Facebook post and statement from Nancy Pelosi.
Read the entire memo below: