Protestor Tells Why He Heckled Obama "What about the black community, Obama?" Those words appeared on a banner, waved by a small group of African-American protestors who heckled Sen. Barack Obama during a townhall meeting last week. NPR's Tony Cox speaks with Diop Olugbala — one of the people who disrupted the gathering.

Protestor Tells Why He Heckled Obama

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TONY COX, host:

This is News & Notes. I'm Tony Cox. What about the black community, Obama? Those words were on a banner waved by a small group of African-American protesters who heckled Senator Barack Obama during a town-hall meeting last week. The group said the Democratic candidate is ignoring important African-American issues. We are joined now by Diop Olugbala, international organizer for the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. He was one of the people who disrupted that town-hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. Diop, welcome to News & Notes.

Mr. DIOP OLUGBALA (International Organizer, International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement): Uhuru, thank you so much for having me.

COX: Why did you interrupt the senator? Let's start there.

Mr. OLUGBALA: Well, because as an African in this country who, you know, has experienced all types of crisis that is not any different from that which is experienced by our whole community, I know that anybody who claims to be a leader, and who has control, and commands the attention of the entire world, and who himself is an African, has a responsibility to address the attacks that are being made by the U.S. government against the African community.

COX: Let me ask let me ask this question, then. What issues affecting the black community do you want Obama to focus on that he has not already?

Mr. OLUGBALA: Well, we can start, essentially, with this parasitic relationship that exists between the U.S. government and the African community, particularly in the form of the prison industry, where right now, 1.3 million Africans are locked up in prisons throughout this country on any given day, where tens of thousands of Africans have been stripped of all their resources, their homes, as a consequence of the sub-prime mortgage attack on the African community, and you know, the list in terms of the economic exploitation of our people goes on and on.

COX: Now, your appearance at the town-hall meeting got a great deal of media play, and here you are with us on News & Notes today as a result. Since Friday, what kind of reaction have you been getting?

Mr. OLUGBALA: Well, we've gotten all types of reactions. I'm sure you could imagine that a lot of supporters of Obama have - came out against the action that we did. There's been a lot of statements and signs of support for what we did as well.

COX: Now, are you also targeting John McCain? Is he addressing issues of importance to African-Americans more than Obama is?

Mr. OLUGBALA: Well, I don't think that either McCain or Obama are addressing the issues facing the African community, and they're both running on a campaign and on a program designed to deepen these attacks being made against our people. So, John McCain can get it, too, for lack of a better term. And we, right now - the Uhuru Movement is preparing demonstrations and preparing for mobilizations to deal with John McCain and any other candidate who refuses to address these questions that concern our community.

COX: That's my final question, as a matter of fact, coming up, which was, are you intending to continue to show up where Obama speaks and to raise the kind of issues in the way that you raise those issues?

Mr. OLUGBALA: Well, you know, the methods may have to change just for practical reasons, if nothing else. But the message itself will continue to get - go out there. And we want for the question - what about the black community? - to be a household question being asked by people throughout this country and throughout the world.

COX: Diop, thank you very much for appearing on News & Notes. That was Diop Olugbala. He is the international organizer for the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. We reached out to Senator Obama's campaign representatives for their reaction, but they have not responded.

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