The controversy began just as the second half of the pre-conference, entitled All of Us or None of Us: Join, Fight, and Win Together, was set to start. A panel on the topic of building independent political power was scheduled to include Missouri State Representative and BLM activist, Bruce Franks of District 78. But Franks was nowhere to be seen on stage. Eventually, former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker announced to the waiting audience that Franks, along with his fellow BLM activists, were locked out of the convention center. Every door facing onto Washington Avenue, the main thoroughfare outside the center, was chained shut on the orders of convention center management. Baker was told by the America’s Center that there was a fear of “damage to property” if the activists were allowed into the building. Baker then announced that since Franks and the other activists weren’t being allowed entry to the conference, the delegates would take the conference outside to them. What followed was hundreds of trade unionists rising to their feet and marching out towards the chained doors of the convention center, demanding to be let out in order to join the BLM activists and Franks who were protesting outside. Once they reached the protest outside, chants of solidarity rang out as delegates demanded that the activists be allowed into the building. Speaking to the crowd, Baker proclaimed: “On behalf of the AFL-CIO All of Us or None of Us conference, we have come out here to say that we stand in solidarity with you because we all stand for 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.” After several minutes, convention center management was eventually forced to relent. The chains and locks came off, and the doors swung open. AFL-CIO delegates, Franks, and BLM activists marched into the building together and back into the conference hall. Seated at the head table directly in front of the stage, the same protesters who were shut out only a few minutes before were now honored guests. Finally taking the stage, Franks expressed thanks to the delegates who walked out in protest, emphasizing the need for unions to stand up—beyond just words—for Black Lives Matter and against racism and discrimination.

Chauncey K. Robinson in AFL-CIO delegates walk out to join Black Lives Matter protesters (Peoplesworld)



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