Bill Clinton

Screengrab via ABC News

'I like protesters. But the ones who won’t let you answer are afraid of the truth.'
Bill Clinton on Thursday criticized a group of protesters at a Hillary Clinton campaign event who interrupted the former president to voice their opposition to Mr. Clinton's 1990s-era crime laws

While the Black Lives Matter protesters' chants are mostly indecipherable, Clinton made his response clear. 

“This is what's the matter. I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens—[Hillary] didn't. She didn't. You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter.”

After more chanting, Clinton added, “Here's the thing: I like protesters. But the ones who won’t let you answer are afraid of the truth.”

Clinton—and now his wife—has long come under fire for enacting the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which established strict sentencing guidelines for violent offenders but is largely seen as increasing the number of African-Americans who end up behind bars. 

Exacerbating criticism of the law, which researches believe helped lead to one in three black Americans spending time in jail or prison, is that incarceration rates do not help lower crime rates, according to a study by a National Academy of Sciences panel.

As the chanting continued, Clinton brought his speech back around to the point at hand: Getting his wife elected president. 

“You need a president,” Clinton said, “who will tell you the truth, answer the questions, and not be intimidated by people on the far right and far left screaming things that are not true.”

Both Clinton and her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have faced opposition from protesters throughout the 2016 election season so far. It is unclear whether this episode will inspire moves from the Sanders campaign, which has gone on the offensive against Clinton in recent weeks.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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