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Tim Pierce/Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

Elizabeth Warren gave Black Lives Matter activists the speech they’ve been waiting to hear

The Massachusetts senator speaks the movement's language.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Sep 28, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 9:51 pm CDT

Slowly but surely, prominent Democrats are listening to Black Lives Matter. But nobody is paying attention like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

In a speech Sunday at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, Warren explicitly drew upon both the language and concerns of the modern civil-rights movement.

“We’ve seen sickening videos of unarmed, black Americans cut down by bullets, choked to death while gasping for air, their lives ended by those who are sworn to protect them,” Warren said. “Peaceful, unarmed protesters have been beaten. Journalists have been jailed. And, in some cities, white vigilantes with weapons freely walk the streets.”

On Twitter, a service that has been instrumental in helping Black Lives Matter and similar activist movements organize, some leaders were thrilled with Warren’s speech.

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Warren also addressed a number of the intersecting concerns of Black Lives Matter and other protest movements, ranging from housing opportunity to gerrymandering to unemployment, relating each to the struggle of Black Americans.

“Black lives matter,” she said. “Black citizens matter. Black families matter.”

Unlike Warren, who declined calls from the liberal base to run for president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the two leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidates, have both struggled to address Black Lives Matter and the activist tide it represents. The movement began after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and continued gaining strength as police killings of unarmed black men in 2014 and 2015 put police brutality in the national spotlight.

Black Lives Matter activists butted heads with Clinton when they met with her in August. Sanders riled up activists enough that they interrupted his speeches, though he too has met with their leaders.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the only Republican presidential candidate who addressed the disproportionate incarceration of Black Americans during the GOP debates, has nonetheless refused to endorse Black Lives Matter, suggesting the movement rename itself “Innocent Lives Matter.”

Photo via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Sep 28, 2015, 5:28 pm CDT