ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. — A day after John McCain’s campaign accused Barack Obama of having “played the race card,” the senator from Illinois was confronted by self-described members of the “International African Revolution” concerned he doesn’t talk enough about race.
A boisterous town hall meeting in the Gibbs High School gym here was repeatedly interrupted by activists from the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, a pan-African socialist group, who accused Obama of ignoring the plight of poor blacks targeted by predatory lenders, police brutality and racist attacks. Obama tried to calm the situation, with assists from a supportive crowd that shouted the hecklers down.
Handing the activists the microphone did little to assuage them.
“All these attacks are clearly being made on the African community,” one of the hecklers, St. Petersburg resident Diop Olugbulu, 31, said, when Obama recognized him and directed the microphone to him. “Why is it that that you have not spoken to the issues or spoken on behalf of the African community?”
Obama defended his record, saying he had spoken out on every issue the hecklers raised, from the shooting of Sean Bell in New York to the prosecution of the Jena Six in Louisiana to predatory lending targeted at blacks and Hispanics.
“That doesn’t mean I’m always going to satisfy the way you guys want me to talk, which gives you the option of voting for someone else, which gives you the option of running for office yourself,” Obama replied as the young man stood stony-faced, arms crossed, amid deafening cheers. “But the one thing that is important is that we’re respectful toward each other.”