South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg met privately with Black Lives Matter members over the summer after a fatal officer-involved shooting complicated his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a recent report.
The discussions began with a conference call in July, followed by a closed-door meeting last month inside the mayor’s office. CNBC reports that Black Lives Matter activists claimed Buttigieg “brushed off their concerns about police violence in the city he has led since 2012.”
“He seemed to have already taken a side,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, lead organizer with Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, who participated in the phone conversation. “It did seem that he was prioritizing who he thought was important, and it didn’t seem to be black people.”
“I remember he felt very rushed, as if he wanted to check it off a box as something that he did,” Abdullah told CNBC.
According to the outlet, Buttigieg’s presidential campaign would not comment on the talks “and denied repeated requests to make the candidate available for an interview.”
As CNBC reported:
During the call and subsequent meeting with Black Lives Matter, activists pushed Buttigieg to address the disparities they saw between the national figure they witnessed campaigning on a forceful pledge to go after systemic racism, and the local public official who, they felt, caved to bureaucratic obstacles and political opposition.
The conversations between Buttigieg and Black Lives Matter, which each lasted about half an hour, were intended to be private, and have not been previously reported. Members of Black Lives Matter agreed to discuss them after CNBC reviewed documentation of the meetings on the mayor’s calendars, which were obtained using public records laws.
Some of the individuals who discussed the meetings with CNBC agreed to do so only on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
Buttigieg’s relationships with both law enforcement and communities of color have reportedly deteriorated since the June death of Eric Logan, a 54-year-old black man who was shot and killed by Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, a white South Bend police officer. Authorities said Logan approached O’Neill while holding a knife and refused orders to drop it. O’Neill’s body camera had not been activated prior to the shooting death. Police reform activists claim the killing is linked to institutional racism. They demanded Buttigieg fire or demote South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski and terminate O’Neill, who went on to step down from the force. The controversy has followed Buttigieg on the campaign trail, bringing issues like police misconduct back to the national stage.
Abdullah, who is also a tenured professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles, was part of a Black Lives Matter contingent from L.A. that traveled to South Bend in July to organize residents and help establish a local chapter. The L.A.-based activists launched a similar campaign targeting L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the LAPD three years ago. Abdullah was recently granted a semester-long sabbatical.
“If you ask black South Bend what they think of Mayor Pete, I don’t think he has a very big fan base,” Dr. Abdullah recently told CNBC. “So if he hasn’t been able to win the support of black South Bend, I don’t think he should win the support of black America.”
According to Politico, Buttigieg recently hired a black engagement director to help garner support from among people of color. A recent CNN/SSRS poll found he is only polling at 2% with registered black voters.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.