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African Socialists Heckle Obama

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Members of a pan-African socialist group squared off against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during a town hall meeting Friday.

Two men unfurled a banner that said “What about the black community, Obama?” and contained the web address, a website created by the International People’s Democratic Movement.

According to IPDM’s own webpage,, the group was founded in Obama’s home city of Chicago by the African People’s Socialist Party in 1991—the same year Obama graduated from Harvard Law and settled in the Windy City.

IPDM‘s web page criticizes Obama, GOP presidential candidate John McCain and former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton for not speaking “a single wod [sic] about ending public policies of police containment or reparations to the African families left homeless through the sub-prime mortgage economic attack on the African community.”

At the end of his speech, Obama gave one of the IPDM members a chance to speak and ask a question. Diop Olugbulu asked Obama: “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same US government that you aspire to lead - and we are talking about attacks like the sub prime mortgage that you spoke of - it wasn't just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community, attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or Black community in this country?”

Many members of the audience booed Olugbulu, but Obama asked them to “respect him” and said “he has a legitimate question.”

Obama reminded Olugbulu he has made many statements about the issues raised by the activist. “I passed the first racial profiling legislation in Illinois,” Obama said.

He ended by telling Olugbulu “That doesn’t mean I’m always going to say what you want me to say, which gives you the option of voting for somebody else or run for office yourself.”

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