Protesters Disrupt Obama in St. Pete

Submitted by tnjp on August 2, 2008 - 7:06pm.

Obama, interrupted
Posted: Friday, August 01, 2008 11:21 AM by Mark Murray

From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli and NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- About seven minutes into his remarks here, Obama was interrupted by a handful of African-American demonstrators, who stood up in the last row of a section of bleachers behind him and held up a sign that said: "What about the black community, Obama." It had a link to a Web sitewhich calls itself the "Online Voice of the International African Revolution."

Obama eventually stopped speaking, turned around, and said, "Excuse me, young men. This is going to be a question-and-answer session, so you can ask a question later. Let me make my statement. Why don't you all sit down? Then you can ask your question. That's why we're having a town hall meeting. Sit down. You'll have a chance to answer your question. But you don't want to disrupt the whole meeting. Just be courteous. That's all. All you got to do is be courteous. That's all. Just be courteous and you'll have a chance to make your statement."

The men eventually sat down and their sign was taken away by those sitting nearby, and eventually a campaign staffer took it away.
*** UPDATE *** Per NBC's Lauren Appelbaum, Obama eventually took a question from one of these protestors. Here's the exchange:

Obama: I'm going to call on these young men. Just one of you. All right? And remember, I made a promise to you. But also I want you to give your mike back after you ask your question or make your comment.

Protestor: So my question is: In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community, by the same US government that you aspire to lead -- and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of -- it wasn't just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community, attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?

Obama: Well, I, ah, I guess, I... Hold on a second, everybody. I want everybody to be respectful. That's why we are having a town hall meeting. That's democracy at work. And he asked a legitimate question, so I want to give him an answer.

I think you are misinformed about when you say not one time. Every issue you've spoken about, I actually did speak out about. I'm going to go through the various specific examples. I've been talking about predatory lending for the last two years in the United States Senate and worked to pass legislation to prevent it when I wan in the state legislature. And I have repeatedly said that many of the predatory loans that were made in the mortgage system did target African American and Latino communities. I've said that repeatedly.

Number two, Jena Six -- I was the first candidate to get out there and say this is wrong, that there's an injustice that's been done and we need to change it. That's number two.

When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately saying this is a problem. (Protestors yell out something inaudible.) I'm sorry, wait, wait, wait, don't start, hold on, don't start, you know shouting back, I'm just answering your question. On each of these issues, I've spoken out. Now, I may not have spoken out the way you would have wanted me to speak out, which is fine.

More from Obama: Here's what I'm suggesting. What I'm suggesting is that on each of these issues that you mentioned, I have spoken out and I have spoken out forcefully. I was a civil-rights lawyer. I have passed, I passed -- hold on a second -- I passed the first racial profiling legislation in Illinois. I passed, I passed some of the toughest death penalty reform legislation in Illinois. So, these are issues I've worked on for decades. Now, that doesn't mean I'm always going to satisfy the way you guys want these issues framed. I understand that, which gives you the option of voting for somebody else. It gives you the option of running for office yourself. Those are all options. But the one thing that I think is important, the one thing that I think is important is that we're respectful towards each other. And what is true is I believe that the only way we're going to solve our problems in this country... The only way were going to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, disabled, gay, straight. That I think has got to be our agenda.

Here's the statement from Uhuru:

Breaking News Update:

Covered on CNN, Fox, ABC, as well as on the front cover of today's New York Times newspaper: The Uhuru Movement led a demonstration and protest at Obama's town hall meeting, demanding he address the concerns and conditions of the African community! Held at Gibbs High School, former school of 17-year-old Javon Dawson who was murdered by police June 7th, Obama was campaigning on his platform for "change" when Uhuru Movement members stood up and unfurled the banner reading "What about the Black community, Obama?" Diop Olugbala, international organizer for the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, challenged Obama to take a stand about:

  • - The subprime mortgage crisis that targeted the African community and Latino community

  • - Attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and Javon Dawson right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police

  • - The Jena 6

  • - Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on!

This was a strategic political struggle to thrust the issues of the African working class community into the national political debate. Uhuru Solidarity Movement is making a call for white people to take a stand and support this struggle! It's not a debate about McCain being the better candidate, it is a struggle around Obama who is basing his campaign on hope and change, garnering support from people who want to see a change in the world. But if you really look at what Obama represents, it is more of the status quo: he supports the continuation of the war abroad, he supports the death penalty, his financial advisor Penny Pritzker was the architect of the subprime mortgage targeting the African community, and the list goes on! Obama and McCain are the same! Real change, real peace can not happen without social justice.

The Uhuru Movement is demanding that the devastating conditions in the African community must be addressed! African people must have control over their own resources, lives and futures! Go to for more!

If we want real peace, we have to support an end to the terror enforced on the African community. Be part of an organization that is changing the world! Join Uhuru Solidarity Movement!


- Demonstration TONIGHT!

Justice for Javon Dawson demonstration at Tropicana Dome - meet at the Uhuru House at 5:00 pm, 1245 18th Avenue South, we'll caravan to the demonstration!

- Speak out!

Blog and make comments on the national news sites that are running coverage on this protest. They want to characterize the Uhuru Movement as "hecklers", but it was a protest making serious demands that Obama address the conditions in the African community!

- Attend the Community Meeting!

Sunday, August 3rd at 4:00 pm at the Uhuru House (1245 18th Avenue South) - attend this community meeting - hear from the protesters - learn about updates - open yourself up to understanding these issues from the perspective of the working class African community! Everyone is welcome - learn more about how you can participate!

- Attend Event: "The Problems Obama Will Not Solve"

Saturday, September 6th at 2:00 pm, St. Petersburg Main Library, 3745 9th Avenue North, St. Petersburg

For more information - contact USM Chair, Stephanie at 727-510-4360.

Check out these links to see national media coverage, hear Diop address Obama and learn more! (scroll down)

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I think he deserves respect.

Submitted by Vanessa (not verified) on March 12, 2009 - 4:33am.

I think he deserves respect. It is exactly what is required, to be united. It is quite right that everyone should get together and not fight.He will show what he can do, just give him time.

Obama was seen on Jay Leno.

Submitted by Hannah on March 28, 2009 - 4:38am.

Obama was seen on Jay Leno. Instinct might be to ask why Obama is on Jay Leno; doesn't he have a country to run? However, that isn't the point. The point is that when the only sitting president to appear on the Tonight Show did so, he went there to talk straight, first about the personal loans that the government made to the banking system. With the economy we have today most people are in need of financial aids like personal loans. Tough times usually mean people cut down on discretionary spending, and certain businesses like Blockbuster are feeling the pinch. Blockbuster is looking into short term loans or a possible buyout to make up for the $360 million they lost this year, as Netflix and other mail order rentals are becoming more popular. Ticketmaster, one of the largest ticket retailers, has also been taking hits as they saw a $1 billion drop in revenue. Theaters, oddly enough, haven't suffered as much as one would think, but discretionary spending from families was one of the first things to go during the recession. Naturally a firm like Blockbuster would be amongst the first to miss out.

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