Heckler disrupts African American SB leaders showing support for Buttigieg

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A ruckus erupted during a press conference Wednesday, as local African American leaders and elected officials wanted to show support for Mayor Pete Buttigieg in a time, they argue, the national media suggests he lacks local community support.

One protester interrupted speaker and Councilwoman Sharon McBride, shouting, "Release the tapes."

A man who reportedly belongs to the local chapter of Black Lives Matter stole the microphone from McBride. Crowd members had to quiet him and regain control of the microphone.

The press conference was held at the Charles Martin Youth Center.

Gladys Muhammad, who manages the youth center, said the meeting was not meant to showcase presidential endorsements of Buttigieg.

Buttigieg's campaign staff said this was an effort to show the mayor has support among black residents in South Bend.

Several speakers explained why they are backing Buttigieg for his work as South Bend mayor and the work he has done for the African American community.

"He spent $4 million to renovate and expand the Charles Black Center," pastor Michael Patton said.

Patton said he was proud of Buttigieg for creating the Department of Diversity and Inclusion, among other achievements. He cast his support for Buttigieg as the Democratic nominee at the end of his five-minute speech.

"Pete heard my dream about how I wanted to make a difference in the southeast side of South Bend," speaker Rickardo Taylor said.

One speaker mentioned the mayor's economic development plan, called the Douglass Plan, aimed to help provide resources for African Americans.

"And injecting capital into the black community, and taking bold steps to filling long, broken promises of true equality," speaker Hardie Blake said.

Some, though, said they have experienced the reverse.

"There are people -- maybe he has touched their lives, and maybe they are on his payroll, who knows?" said Yemoja Redding, who protested at the press conference.

"You have others who may not see or may not have had those level of experiences with Mayor Pete," moderator and Councilwoman Karen White said.

"I think he's done a lot. Could he have done more? Absolutely," lifelong resident of South Bend Solomon Anderson said. "... But also, it's not his job to take care of the whole city. You know, sometimes we have to do some things for ourselves."

Recent polls show Buttigieg trailing other Democratic candidates in terms of African American support. He has 2% of the share in a poll from The Economist/YouGov, compared to Joe Biden's 46%.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Buttigieg has 4% of support among black voters.

While Buttigieg has room to gain popularity in other voting categories, Dr. Elizabeth Bennion, a political science professor at Indiana University South Bend, said garnering the African American vote is key for any candidate.

"African Americans make up about 25% of the total primary voter pool in the Democratic party, and they are a majority in a number of states, including South Carolina, where they make up 60% of expected primary voters there," Bennion stated.