Bernie Sanders Talks Racism and Police Violence, Meets with Black Activists in an Attempt to Attract Black Voters

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

In an attempt to increase his support among Black voters, Bernie Sanders is meeting with civil rights and Black Lives Matter movement activists, and speaking up more on racial justice issues and police brutality.

At a September 15 rally, Sanders spoke to a mostly white crowd of 2,000 people in Manassas, Virginia. At least one of whom was holding a “Black Lives matter” sign for the entire length of the speech, as was reported in Think Progress. In his remarks, Sanders ultimately spoke in terms of economic inequality as he is known to do, but he also talked about the context with which Black people are being killed by police:

Racism is alive and well in America. And I’m not just talking about that very, very sick person in Charleston, South Carolina a couple months ago who walked into a bible prayer session, prayed with people in the room, and — because they were black — he took out a gun and killed 9 of them.

I’m not just talking about the hundreds of groups in this country whose sole purpose for existence is to propagate hatred. […]

I am also talking about institutional racism. About people like Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown. I am talking about unarmed African Americans killed while in police custody.

The Vermont senator made a distinction between defending the police and condemning police brutality.

“The vast majority of police officers in this country are honest,” he said. “If anybody thinks that being a cop today is an easy job, you are sorely mistaken.” He pointed out that officers are underpaid and undertrained. “But let us also be clear, that like any other public official, that when a police officer breaks the law, he must be held accountable.”

In addition, the candidate proposed an end to the war on drugs and militarized police forces, eliminating private prisons, and diversifying police forces to bring them closer to the communities they serve.
Sen. Sanders participated in the America’s Journey for Justice rally at the Lincoln Memorial, the final leg of a 1,000-mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, urging Congress to reenact the Voting Rights Act by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Meanwhile, Sanders was scheduled to meet with Campaign Zero on September 16, as Politico reported. The group, which is organizationally distinct from Black Lives Matter, tracks candidates’ records on police issues and says,“the next President needs to tell the truth about police violence and urgently enact a comprehensive agenda to address it.”

Deray McKesson of Campaign Zero tweeted:

Sanders, who serves a state which is over 95 percent white, has faced challenges appealing to Black voters, as evidenced by his confrontations with Black protesters, his past reluctance to speak about racism, and his rival Hillary Clinton’s support among African-Americans. He has attempted to overcome his deficit by hiring a Black woman activist as his press manager, devising a racial justice platform, and through an endorsement from Dr. Cornel West.

This past weekend, Sanders campaigned in the Carolinas and spoke at Benedict College, the historically Black institution.

“Racism remains alive today, and our goal together must be to end all forms of institutional racism and make major reforms in our criminal justice system,” he said.


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