Bill and Hillary Clinton
Bill Clinton criticised Black Lives Matter protesters at rally Reuters

Bill Clinton's has declined to apologise for an angry – and very public – exchange with Black Lives Matter protesters at a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Thursday, 7 April. Clinton, who was once dubbed "the first black president" by supporters for his ability to curry favour with the African-American community, attacked members of the movement in a 10-minute outburst while campaigning on behalf of his wife.

"You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter," he told the protesters, who were drawing attention to remarks Hillary Clinton had made in 1996, when she described black youth gangs as "super predators".

The former president addressed the row a day later on the stump in Pennsylvania, saying he "almost" wanted to apologise. He admitted that he had not been "most effective in answering" the criticism, but stopped short of contrition.

"I confess maybe it's just a sign of old age," he said, "but it bothers me now when that happens. So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia I almost want to apologise for, but I want to use it as an example of the danger threatening our country."

Clinton's discriminatory laws

Clinton's remarks are unlikely to quiet the storm of protest they inspired amongst the black community in the US. Protesters are increasingly angry at the effect legislation passed while Bill Clinton was in office has had on African-Americans. He introduced stricter laws on non-violent crime, including statutory minimum sentences, which have led to very high rates of incarceration for young black men over relatively minor offences. According to the US Bureau of prisons, 37.7% of prisoners are African-American, despite just 13.6% of US citizens being black, according to the 2010 US census data.

"I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good TV, and they did, but that doesn't mean I was most effective in answering it," said the former US president.

Hillary Clinton has also tussled with activists from the BLM movement at an event in New Hampshire last August, during which she was accused of victim blaming black people for problems in their communities.

Clinton's opponent in the fight for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Saunders, has also run afoul of Black Lives Matters activists. In August 2015, two BLM protestors took over a stage, preventing Saunders from making a speech in Westlake Park, Seattle.