ST. LOUIS — This year’s national convention of the AFL-CIO took an interesting turn when delegates left the convention to join activists from Black Lives Matter in protesting.
The activists, numbering a couple dozen, stood outside of the America’s Center Convention Complex on Saturday after having been refused entry into the center. They had reportedly been invited to take part in the AFL-CIO’s Diversity and Inclusion Pre-Conference, but the venue’s management denied them entry.
Rep. Bruce Franks, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, had been invited to speak as part of a panel but was not seen on the stage. That’s when the attendees were informed that Franks and the BLM activists had been denied entry, and that the main doors had been chained shut by management, who feared “damage to property” if the activists were allowed inside.
Labor leaders and attendees instead rose to their feet and went outside to join the members of the movement in solidarity, saying that they would take the conference to them.
They were let outside, where former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker addressed the crowd, saying “Sisters and brothers, “On behalf of our ‘all of us or none of us’ conference, we are pleased to tell you that we have come out — not just workers representing workers from the USA, but all over the world — to say that we stand in solidarity with you because we all believe in justice… We have invited State Rep. Bruce Franks to speak. We now invite all of you to come into our conference. I want you to all do what I know you all know how to do—go in united.”
Eventually, both activists and delegates were allowed to return to the building, where they filed into the conference hall together.
Rep. Franks finally took the stage, thanking the delegates for taking a stand and doing “what is right.” He also spoke about the struggle in St. Louis, and the importance of standing up and taking part in the fight for equality.
“The unions have the power. Your endorsement is letting people know that you stand with a candidate. If that candidate does bad, then that is a reflection on you,” he said. “We have to do things different. We need you all to stand up, like you did today. Where are the union leaders in the streets? Don’t be with us sometimes. Be with us all the way or not at all.”
This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.