Update, February 25, 2:38 p.m. ET:
This piece has been updated to reflect Ashley Williams’ correct gender pronouns of they/them/theirs, as indicated by this tweet and Ashley’s own Twitter account.
As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigned ahead of Saturday’s (February 27) South Carolina Democratic primary, protesters forced Clinton to confront unsavory parts of her past at a private event. The result was a top-trending topic on Twitter.
Activist Ashley Williams interrupted the former Secretary of State during a fundraiser at a private residence in Charleston yesterday (February 24), citing remarks Clinton made during her husband Bill’s presidency about youth crime. Williams told The Huffington Post that they and an unidentified colleague contributed $500 to gain entry to the event, which was attended by about 100 guests. Clinton was introduced by several speakers who addressed last summer’s racist Chaleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre and the police killing of Walter Scott. During Clinton’s speech, Williams stood near her, holding a sign that quoted Clinton’s 1996 statements on at-risk youth: "We Have to Bring Them to Heel."
Williams said that Clinton paused during her speech, at which moment they demanded that Clinton apologize for mass incarceration. White audience members then admonished Williams, who was apparently then thrown out of the event by Secret Service members. You can see a video of the confrontation on The Huffington Post’s website, as well as in the following tweet from a Bernie Sanders supporter:
#WhichHillary? One calling you "super predators" & "bring them to heel" or one telling you to know your place?#BLMpic.twitter.com/xAt7oAcmMa
— BernieCantBeBought (@QuinnDaGhost) February 25, 2016
“Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the Black community under the bus when it serves her politically," Williams said in a pre-protest statement, adding, "She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in ’96, then she race-baited when running against Obama in ’08, now she’s a lifelong civil rights activist. I just want to know which Hillary is running for President, the one from ’96, ’08, or the new Hillary?”
Williams’ banner also read "#WhichHillary," and that hashtag jumped to the top spot on Twitter’s list of trending topics after photo and video of the confrontation spread online:
Claims progressive, grassroots politics but keeps hosting $500-$2700/person campaign fundraisers with the wealthy? Spare me. #WhichHillary
— Sabrina Williams (@SabrinaTHSM) February 25, 2016
Didn’t answer Ashley Williams and doesn’t consider it enough of an issue to answer #WhichHillary #NotASuperpredator pic.twitter.com/YeAHEfIBA4
— Jules (@CoolCatFossil) February 25, 2016
Clinton has received endorsements from prominent Black politicians and civic leaders, including the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Dontre Hamilton and Eric Garner. As she and Sanders campaign for the support of Black voters—who form an important constituency in the South Carolina Democratic primary—she has also been the subject of criticism like Williams’ for her previous support of a 1994 crime bill that lead to the current mass incarceration epidemic. Sanders, it should be noted, voted for that legislation.