WASHINGTON — Organizers of a town hall event at a senior center Wednesday featuring Republican candidate for president Jeb Bush are on the alert for something the former Florida governor — or any of the GOP candidates — has yet to experience: a demonstration by members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bush is scheduled to speak to elderly voters and a number of Latino voters at a town hall Wednesday afternoon at the Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas. However, Black Lives Matter protesters could also be planning a direct action at the town hall, according to Kevin Hooks, the president and CEO of Las Vegas Urban League.
Hooks told BuzzFeed News he's gotten notes, text messages, phone calls and seen activity on Twitter suggesting activists are planning to confront Bush during his time in Nevada.
Bush would be the first Republican candidate to be confronted publicly by movement activists.
However, Hooks said he doesn't want activists to completely disrupt the event.
"It's going to be a topic of discussion, for sure, but not something that drowns out other discussions," Hooks said. "We want to treat it like there's going to be a guest in our home. We want to make him answer tough questions."
Hooks said he had been turned off by the manner in which Black Lives Matter protesters cut short a rally for Sanders in Seattle that was attended by thousands, because it prevented a constructive conversation.
Shortly after the incident, Sanders' campaign announced the hire of a black female operative, Symone Sanders, as national press secretary.
But Bush is remembered inside the Black Lives Matter movement for his incredulous response after Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley was made to apologize for saying "all lives matter."
"Life is precious. It's a gift from God. I frankly think that it's one of the most important values that we have," Bush said. "I know in the political context it's a slogan, I guess. Should he have apologized? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn't have apologized to a group that seemed to disagree with it."
Activists have been reluctant to confront Republican candidates so far, saying the GOP's "all lives matter" rhetoric makes it clear what they think about black lives. Putting public pressure on Democrats is more productive, they say.
"The resonance of Black Lives Matter has to come up, and I'll certainly bring it up," Hooks said. "These are the people we need to hear from. But beating [Bush] up to me doesn't do near as much good as forcing the issue on the other side of the aisle."
And then Hooks said there was the matter of the seniors at the Pearson Center many of whom are black and skeptical of a white conservative candidate for president — especially one with a famous last name.
"My seniors are going to do what my seniors are going to do," Hooks said.
This post has been updated to reflect an organizer's sentiment toward the possible protest.
Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Darren Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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