Civil rights activists, including members of protest groups like Black Lives Matter, will meet at the White House Thursday with President Barack Obama as part of the administration’s marking of Black History Month.
A senior administration official said the gathering would be a “first-of-its-kind (event) as the President will convene leaders who represent different generations of civil rights leaders.”
That includes young activists from groups formed in the wake of incidents of police violence in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.
A White House statement said Aislinn Pulley, a leader of Black Lives Matter Chicago, and Deshaunya Ware, a student leader of the University of Missouri protest group Concerned Student 1950, would attend the meeting.
Other invited leaders include Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and National Urban League leader Marc Morial.
The group will “discuss a range of issues including the administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform, building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and the President’s priorities during his final year in office,” the official said, adding that Attorney General Loretta Lynch would also be present.
Obama has defended the groups that sprung from high-profile incidents of police killings of unarmed black men. He said in October those communities’ grievances must be taken seriously, and pushed back on the notion that organizations like Black Lives Matter are anti-police.
“I think everybody understands all lives matter. I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter,” Obama said at an event in October.
“Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities … and that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address,” he said.