Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he would be willing to participate in a hypothetical Black Lives Matter movement presidential town hall.
"If we were smart, we would do it," the Republican presidential hopeful said in an interview with Roland Martin on NewsOne Now Thursday night. "They are drawing attention to issues that need to be drawn to."
Last month, both the Democratic and Republican National Committees gave their blessing to activists with Black Lives Matter to set up a presidential town hall after a petition for one went viral. Organizers within the movement have continued to say they want an official debate because it will be more high-profile and worthwhile.
"Sen. Rand Paul will continue spreading his message of liberty and opportunity to every corner of this nation," Sergio Gor, Paul's communiations director, told the Washington Examiner's about Paul's plan going forward to target the black community. "From Detroit to Chicago, Sen. Paul will continue going places other Republicans won't, and we'll have more events to announce in the very near future."
Paul, who has been hesitant to outright declare his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the past, is one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill fighting for criminal justice reform. But he seemed much more supportive of the group on Thursday.
"I'm for most of the change and most of the things they have supported. I'm for the cameras," Paul said, touting his work with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on legislation that would require police to report deaths in custody. "I thought the Eric Garner case and all of these other cases were just real tragedies." Garner was choked to death by police after he was questioned about selling cigarettes illegally.
Paul did caution that the Black Lives Matter movement should not make it all about race: "If we make it all about race, we're going to mistake the problem" of bad police behavior and bad policy.
"The mayor wants tax money and they don't want you selling illegal cigarettes, a huge financial thing," he said about Garner's death. "Mayor [Bill] de Blasio has been a big part of that, but he doesn't want to accept the blame for his policy."
"He instructed the police to take people down. Now, he didn't instruct them to kill Eric Garner, but he did instruct the police — 'We're going to take down' — we're going to have a zero tolerance for cigarettes," Paul said. But Garner "didn't have any cigarettes on him. It was ridiculous and nobody deserves to die that way, but the thing is, I blame the policymakers."
Paul, in a RealClearPolitics average of polls, has 2.8 percentage points, enough to put him in eighth place.
Watch the full interview below: