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Sen. Kamala Harris' Boycott Prompts Sponsorship Removal At Forum

It's been quite a roller coaster for the Criminal Justice Forum at Benedict College in South Carolina this weekend.

The topic of discussion was bizarre on its face. The most racist president in modern history received an award from the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center — an organization of Black local leaders from around the country — for his work in criminal justice reform. The award was presented on Friday on the campus of Benedict College, an HBCU. The 20/20 BJC was set to host a Democratic candidates' forum on Saturday, and Kamala Harris planned to attend until she'd heard about Trump receiving this award. Senator Harris herself attended an HBCU, Howard University.

According to the Associated Press:

Earlier Friday, Harris’ campaign said she would skip the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center event Saturday in objection to the group’s decision to give Trump its Bipartisan Justice Award, which she received in 2016.

“Donald Trump is a lawless President,” the California senator said in a statement. “Not only does he circumvent the laws of our country and the principles of our Constitution, but there is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice, or in celebration of justice.”

Ayman Mohyeldin filled in as host for AM Joy on Saturday, and he discussed the decisions to give Trump this award, and Sen. Harris' withdrawal from the event, with the panel. Julianne Malveaux made sure everyone understood it was not the school, Benedict, that was honoring Trump, but this organization that had asked to hold their event at the school. Then she continued to explain the outrageous treatment of the students during the event.

MALVEAUX: The other thing that's important to note is that students were sequestered in their dormitories. It's so outrageous. So, you had seven students attend. Only ten were invited. But the rest of the student body could not leave the dormitory. They were sitting in the dormitory, even through the lunch hour, and they gave them snacks as opposed to a lunch. If I were a parent, I would be suing.
...
[t]he campus did not invite him. This organization invited him. They first leased the college or said can we have this presidential thing on criminal justice on your campus and later after the fact they brought 45 on. He has used black people consistently as props. He has used HBCUs as props.
...
He's used -- he flew people -- understand this South Carolina meeting at Benedict, they flew black republicans from all over the country so that they had a full house, but they didn't have students there.

After Glenn Kirschner went on an absolutely righteous rant about the fact that Trump deserves exactly ZERO credit for criminal justice reform, Mohyeldin read the tweet exchange between Trump and Sen. Harris.

Mohyeldin then asked Nayyera Haq about her thoughts on Sen. Harris pulling out from the event.

HAQ: Well, I think you see this awakening of people refusing to be used as props as part of Donald Trump's political game, and for her, in particular given her background as a law enforcement official, as the Attorney General of California, she certainly has to walk a fine line of making sure that people understand that she has always understood and been aware of what the challenges are facing particular communities, even though she's been on the law enforcement side. So, I think it's important at any opportunity that Kamala Harris can take to remind people that being a Black woman and having been on both sides, she understands very deeply the challenges that communities are facing.

That discussion happened Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, the group's sponsorship was revoked as a result of Sen. Harris' withdrawal from the event. The Washington Post is reporting that Kamala Harris' action motivated South Carolina's mayor and the school to take over sponsorship of the event. The 20/20 BJC's name is not on any banners, and the volunteers are wearing Benedict college t-shirts. So Sen. Harris attended the event.

In the announcement ending her boycott, Harris included a statement from the forum organizers:

“I am excited to welcome presidential candidates to a criminal justice forum dialogue which will allow Benedict College students and the wider community to have full participation,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “I want to be clear that the Candidate Forums are hosted by myself and Benedict College. This portion of the weekend is not a 20/20 Presidential Justice Center event.”

Someone needs to let 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center know that, though, because they are still promoting the event on their website as if they were sponsoring it, and according to The Washington Post, one of the doors to the forum still had a note on it notifying attendees they might be photographed and used in marketing materials for 20/20 BJC.

We'll just let Sen. Harris have the last word at this stage.

NOTE: The above video is a combination of two clips.

This is part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 elections.

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