Black Lives Matter movement begins to influence the 2016 presidential race

Presidential candidates are finally responding to the 'biggest civil rights issue of our time'

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The Independent US

The Black Lives Matter movement has pushed Democratic candidates to release policy plans for criminal justice reform.

Protesters have interrupted both Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in recent weeks making it it clear that they were dissatisfied with the “progressive” candidates' approaches on race. While taking the stage from each candidate, protesters have called for “concrete actions” on criminal justice reform.

And they’re quickly receiving results.

Mr Sanders has hired Symone Sanders, a black criminal justice advocate with reported ties to the movement, to become the face of his presidential campaign. He’s also released a comprehensive plan addressing police brutality, disenfranchisement, jail sentences for non-violent crimes, economic injustices along with many other solutions.

DeRay McKeeson, a Black Lives Matter organiser, praised Senator Sanders’ efforts:

“The 'violence' framing in the initial draft of the Sanders Racial Justice platform is powerful and I look forward to seeing him expand this.”

Meanwhile, former Governor O’Malley released his own comprehensive plan to overhaul the criminal justice system by creating fair sentencing, investing in drug treatment, reforming civil asset forfeiture, addressing discriminatory discipline in schools, solving economic inequality along with many other solutions.

“O'Malley will need to explain the dissonance between his time as Baltimore's Mayor and his criminal justice platform. For many, they seem at odds,” Mr McKesson wrote on Twitter.

The clock is now ticking for Hillary Clinton.

After shutting several activists out of her New Hampshire event on Tuesday, five BLM activists met with Clinton campaign officials, CNN reported.

Advocates of racial justice say that the former Secretary of State will need to release her plan on racial justice to reclaim her favour among voters.

Activist and Daily Kos blogger Shaun King agrees, writing that: “it's true that Hillary was addressing some of these issues in speeches months before her opponents, they have since doubled down in ways that she hasn't, and ways that she must, if she expects to receive the full support from millions of Democratic voters.”

Samuel Sinyangwe, the policy analyst for WeTheProtesters, agrees. Mr Sinyangwe is one of the activists to meet with Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley's camps and told The Independent in July, that Ms Clinton needs to present much more than lip service.

"It will take more than a few speeches to ensure that these efforts result in concrete reforms. It will take a candidate that consistently puts the issue of police violence at the center of their platform. We will see whether Hillary chooses to do this."