WASHINGTON — In some of his most expansive comments on the Black Lives Matter movement, former Attorney General Eric Holder said the movement reminds him of his own activism — and that of Dr. Martin Luther King — in an upcoming interview obtained by BuzzFeed News
Holder was interviewed by Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democratic Party's chair, as part of an ongoing series with elected officials visiting the state, where Holder is trying to bolster Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's support among black voters.
“In them I see a lot of the younger Eric,” Holder said of the Black Lives Matter movement, prompted by Harrison to comment on his own activism as a college student. “Full of energy, with a real sense of mission. When you're young and not had huge amounts of life experience you always think that you're right. And I'm not being critical because this was me as a young person as well."
In the past, Holder has held the movement somewhat at an arm's length. Last October, he was asked about the so-called "Ferguson Effect," and whether FBI director James Comey was right that police officers' unwillingness to do their job was contributing to an apparent rise in crime. He disagreed, but was lukewarm on the movement as a whole.
"Do we have here a moment, or do we have a movement? That, I think, is still up in the air," Holder said, according to the Huffington Post. "From my perspective, I'm not so certain."
Last December, Holder said it was "entirely possible" that the protest movement had an effect on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion on a challenge to the Fair Housing Act.
"I did not expect that case to turn out the way that it did," Holder said. "That’s one of the values of Black Lives Matter. By being noisy, by being disruptive, Black Lives Matter is affecting the consciousness of this nation."
Holder expanded on those views in his comments to Harrison, the SCDP chair, who is considered a rising star in Democratic circles.
"I think that they've disrupted things, but that's what social change in this country is really all about," Holder told Harrison. "It's always based on people who are willing to disrupt an unjust status quo."
Holder invoked King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" on the movement being told to wait for change to happen.
"'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied," he said.
Said Holder, “He said 'Hey, look we can't wait anymore. These are our rights and we need to deal with the fierce urgency of now.' They remind me of Dr. King as well."
Holder said he didn't agree with some of the activists' tactics that drew wide criticism, referring to a pair of Seattle demonstrators who shut down Sanders' event last summer.
“They certainly have moved the political conversation,” Holder said. “I don't [necessarily] agree with all the tactics but I think their hearts are in the right place. They're raising issues that for too long our nation has become expert at avoiding. They're pushing these things into the mainstream conversation and I think that a good thing not only for their cause but for our country."
“I said You know what? If you had gone on that stage, made your point then retreated [and] let him speak, that would have been a lot more effective as opposed to angering the 10,000 or so who came to see him speak who were denied that opportunity," Holder continued. "You had the potential to turn all those people into allies, and they focused more on the fact that they didn't have the chance to hear their candidate speak.”
Harrison asked Holder to give the movement advice on how to be more effective.
"I’d say be as effective as you have been when it comes to television and getting involved in demonstrations,” Holder said. “But I'd also say pick your spots.”
Watch Holder's comments:
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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