Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday he is on board with participating in a hypothetical Black Lives Matter presidential forum, saying it would be a good idea for the Republican Party to take issues of criminal justice reform seriously.
"If we were smart, we would do it," the GOP presidential candidate said during an interview on NewsOne Now. "They are drawing attention to issues that need to be drawn to."
Both the Democratic and Republican National Committees have agreed to promote presidential town halls set up by Black Lives Matter activists. But the movement's organizers have pushed back against the gesture and continue to demand an official presidential debate -- which tends to be more high-profile -- specifically focusing on issues of interest to the black community. (Paul has not weighed in on the debate matter.)
Paul also discussed entrepreneurship in black communities, saying he would work to introduce economic freedom zones, which are areas of reduced taxes and regulations intended to help revive low-income areas.
"My plan would leave $3 billion in the South Side of Chicago. I wouldn't send it to the Chicago government, I wouldn't send it to the federal government. I would just simply leave it in that area," he said. "And so businesses that are already there will thrive."
Paul has been outspoken against the militarization of the police and is one of the few Republican senators to criticize police handling of the protests following 18-year-old Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri. He also draws attention to the need for criminal justice reform far more often than his fellow GOP candidates do.
Still, Paul has been hesitant to explicitly declare support for Black Lives Matter. In August, he suggested that the movement should rename themselves "Innocent Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter." Last month, he said he's not a "big fan" of the movement but understands why people are angry.
But on Thursday, Paul went further and said he supports much of the change the organization is calling for.
"I'm for most of the change and most of the things they have supported. I'm for the cameras," he said. "I thought the Eric Garner case and all of these other cases were just real tragedies."
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