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Black Lives Matter Official Declines To Speak At 'Unite The Right' Rally


I'm joined now by Hawk Newsome. He's the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. And he turned down an invitation from Jason Kessler to speak at the "Unite the Right" rally this weekend. Instead, Mr. Newsome will be counterprotesting. He's walking from the Bronx to Washington for this event. And he's joining us now from a stop in Baltimore. Good morning, Mr. Newsome.

HAWK NEWSOME: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

KING: Why did you turn down Jason Kessler's invitation to attend his rally?

NEWSOME: We operate in unity. We represent Black Lives Matter Greater New York, rejuvenation. We represent a coalition of people. I'm now on the road with another young black man, another young black woman, indigenous Latino man. And we just didn't feel right being on a stage that's consumed by hate. There is no way that I will validate that type of energy and allow myself to be tokenized just so they could turn around and say, hey, look. We care about - we're not all bad. We believe in the First Amendment. We're inviting a Black Lives Matter leader on this stage. That's not what we're here for. We're here for meaningful solutions, and that's not one. That's just a gesture.

KING: Let me talk to you about meaningful solutions. We're hearing that this weekend's rally is going to be - shaping up to be much smaller than Charlottesville. But it is happening on the one-year anniversary. That's significant. Are you concerned about violence this weekend?

NEWSOME: In the name of God or whatever deity he worships, Jason Kessler should cancel this rally because it's in poor taste. I met Heather Heyer's mom a few months ago. This is a woman whose soul is weakened. And to have this event on the anniversary of her death is - it's just - it's incomprehensible.

KING: Mr. Newsome, then, is there an argument that you should just stay away, stay home, not give these people your attention?

NEWSOME: Actually, the reason why we're meeting at the Martin Luther King monument and then walking over to the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave the I Have a Dream speech is to unify people. And we want to present solutions to systemic racism. And as far as I'm concerned - yes, black people are expected; other people are expected - but white people should go out of their way to come to this safe space, which is a mile away from where everybody else will be, come to this safe space and say - hey, I do not condone these hate groups because the fact of the matter is these people carry - they carry Trump signs. They carry - other - they - what white people must understand is sometimes they get clumped in with these people. And if they're tired of the racism in America, if they're tired of these groups who have killed people for hundreds of years, then they should show up and stand with us in this safe space on Sunday.

KING: Hawk Newsome, he's the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. Mr. Newsome, good luck on your last 40 miles of walking. And thanks for joining us.

NEWSOME: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MINTHAZE'S "KNIVES N CHERRIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.