Students Who Interrupted Hillary Clinton: 'Rhetoric Is Not Enough. We Need To See Action'

Clinton was at a rally in Atlanta to unveil her criminal justice reform plan.
Protesters raise their arms while interrupting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she speaks, in the backgr
Protesters raise their arms while interrupting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she speaks, in the background, during a campaign event at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta on Friday.

WASHINGTON -- Two of the student activists who interrupted Hillary Clinton's rally Friday at Clark Atlanta University said the title of the event -- "African Americans for Hillary" -- explains why they decided to drown out the presidential candidate's remarks. 

"That raises a question, because I'm wondering, why it isn't Hillary for African Americans?" Avery Jackson, one of the students, told The Huffington Post. "Because that's the issue. She continues to exploit the spaces that black people value."

"She doesn't really express the centering and prioritizing of black issues, which are at the root American issues," he continued. "I think we see that with the campaign -- that she sees the issues of black people outside of the American agenda."

Clinton was at the university to unveil her criminal justice reform plan. She has been heavily criticized during the campaign for her past support for tough-on-crime initiatives that facilitated mass incarceration.

Though Clinton acknowledges her missteps on this issue, Jackson said Clinton isn't offering any concrete ways to fix the problem or reverse the damage that has been done.

"She talks about prison reform and changing lives moving forward, but I honestly think there's a conversation that needs to be centered around the lives that her and her husband have ruined," he said, referring to the effects of strict criminal justice policies implemented by the Bill Clinton administration.

"At this point, rhetoric is not enough. We need to see action," he added.

The protests at Friday's rally appeared to be organized in part by historically black colleges in the Atlanta University Center Consortium, which represents Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and the Interdenominational Theological Center. A Twitter account affiliated with the movement, which calls itself the AUC Shut It Down coalition, posted a statement Friday afternoon saying, "We charge the administration, law enforcement, and collective student bodies of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) for the multiple offenses committed against black and brown lives."

Activist Shiranthi Goonathilaka told HuffPost she had expected to see an actual policy platform today instead of more rhetoric.

"Even though we interrupted her, she still didn't lay out what that plan was. She just kept on saying little sound bites of how she understands the problem and [how] we need to fix them," she said. Goonathilaka added that African Americans aren't responsible for coming up with solutions for criminal justice reform, even though activists would be involved in the conversation.

"Hillary Clinton is running for president of the United States. She has to come up with ways to claim what she wants to happen to really happen," she said.

Jackson said the reason Clinton is being targeted is because she "continues to come into our spaces and continues to press this PR agenda to gain black votes. At some point we have to ... step up and realize that PR is not enough to save us."

He also criticized the other Democratic front-runners for marginalizing black people. "Black people are Americans. I think a lot of presidential candidates forget that. They are having side conversations about black lives," he said.