Hillary Clinton interrupted by 'Black Lives Matter' protesters during speech at university

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at the African Americans for Hillary rally at Clark Atlanta University, Georgia, on Oct 30 2015.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at the African Americans for Hillary rally at Clark Atlanta University, Georgia, on Oct 30 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was interrupted on Friday (Oct 30) by protesters from the "Black Lives Matter" movement while speaking about the criminal justice system at a historically black university.

The former secretary of state was heckled by chants of "black lives matter" reportedly coming from around a dozen people, not long after launching into her speech in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Yes they do," Mrs Clinton responded, rolling with the interruption. "And I'm going to talk a lot about that in a minute."

The disruption continued as Mrs Clinton tried to shout over the protesters.

Members of the audience attempted to interrupt the demonstrators with chants of "Hillary! Hillary!" and "Let her talk!"

"I'm going to get to some important points that actually prove that black lives do matter and we have to take action together," Mrs Clinton told the crowd.

Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader who had introduced Mrs Clinton, reportedly tried to convince the protesters to stop, before he and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined Mrs Clinton on stage in a show of solidarity.

"Thank you all very much. I really appreciate it, and I appreciate the congressman and the mayor having my back," Mrs Clinton said.

Speaking of the protesters, she added: "I appreciate their passion, but I'm sorry they didn't listen because some of what they're demanding I am offering and intend to fight for as president."

Mrs Clinton was speaking at Clark Atlanta University, where she called for changes in the US criminal justice system, including banning hiring questions about a person's criminal history and equal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine offenders.

Blacks represented 88 per cent of incarcerated crack cocaine offenders in 2012, according to data from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics released earlier this week. Fewer blacks and more whites are sentenced for powder cocaine, which has traditionally held less severe punishment.

Later in the day, MRs Clinton spoke at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meeting in North Charleston, South Carolina, not far from where nine African-Americans were gunned down at a church in June by an alleged white supremacist.