James Clyburn says John Lewis feared ‘Defund the Police’ could hurt ‘Black Lives Matter’

The Black Lives Matter movement could be destroyed by calls to “defund the police” much like the 1960s civil rights were derailed by the rallying cry “burn, baby, burn,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn warned Sunday.

Clyburn — the highest-ranking African American in the House — told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he came out “very forcefully against sloganeering” largely after conferring with late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

“John and I sat on the House floor and talked about that ‘defund the police’ slogan and both of us concluded that it had the possibilities of doing to the Black Lives Matter movement, and current movements across the country, what ‘burn, baby, burn’ did to us back in 1960,” he told Jake Tapper Sunday.

“We lost that movement over that slogan,” he said of the rallying cry that took hold during the Watts riots.

He blamed the backlash for Lewis getting “ousted” as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, of which they were both founders.

“We saw the same thing happening here,” he said of people turning against BLM over the radical approach to police funding taking the focus away from the core principles of the movement.

“We can’t pick up these things just because they make a good headline,” he said. “We need to work on what makes headway, rather than what makes headlines.”

Clyburn said he backed President-elect Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee because he was “our best bet.”

“I’m not going to say he was our only one, but I will say I thought he was the best bet to go into the general election,” he said, partly because he had been “a very loyal vice president” for eight years to Barack Obama, the “first African American president in these United States.”

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