Bernie Sanders likens West Baltimore to ‘Third World’ country (DEC 08, 2015)

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Hoping to reach African-American voters nationally in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday toured the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested — and likened the poverty he observed to that of the Third World.

The independent senator, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, walked the streets of Sandtown-Winchester for about 20 minutes, joined by community leaders and a swarm of cameras that mostly blocked his view of boarded rowhomes and crumbling marble steps. A handful of residents joined the spectacle, and occasionally broke out in chants of Gray’s name.

The scene provided dramatic visuals of the economic inequality Sanders has made the center of his campaign, offering a new backdrop from which to argue for a higher minimum wage, tuition-free public college and tougher federal regulations of the nation’s banking sector.

“Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you’re in a wealthy nation,” Sanders told reporters later at the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center in Bolton Hill. “You would think that you were in a Third World country.”

But Sanders’ anti-poverty message was largely overshadowed by his reluctance to discuss the subject on which politicians, the news media and the public have focused in recent days: terrorism and the self-declared Islamic State.

 

Hoping to reach out to African-American voters in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday for a tour of the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested.

 

Before the news conference began, a campaign spokeswoman tried to wave reporters off asking Sanders about ISIS, arguing it was off-topic.

When a reporter ignored the request, Sanders appeared agitated.

“What about ISIS, guys?” Sanders said. “Of course I’ll talk about ISIS.”

Sanders then shifted back almost immediately to domestic policy.

“But today what we’re talking about is a community in which half of the people don’t have jobs,” he said. “We’re talking about a community in which there are hundreds of buildings that are uninhabitable.”

Then he ended the news conference.

Gray, 25, died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. The protests that followed drew international attention. On the day he was buried, the city erupted in arson, looting and riots.

As Sanders toured West Baltimore, the trial of the first of six police officers charged in Gray’s death entered its seventh day in a downtown courtroom.

Before Sanders arrived in Bolton Hill, a campaign aide asked a group of about a dozen supporters not to cheer him.

The group, which included a woman who held a large banner that read “Bernie Sanders for President,” obliged; as a result, his arrival was more somber than a typical campaign appearance.

Sanders began the tour at the CVS at North and Pennsylvania avenues that burned during the riots. He walked to the corner of Presbury and North Mount streets, near where Gray was arrested, and looked up at a large mural of Gray.

Sanders then met with prominent faith leaders in Bolton Hill.

Residents yelled as Sanders passed by, and some joined the media throng. One shouted “He’s the only candidate without a super PAC!” — repeating a point Sanders has often made.

“We don’t want Trump,” shouted another.

Some held signs pointing to long-standing complaints with the city’s public housing: “We deserve safe and livable housing.”

“I’m impressed,” said Michael Williams, a West Baltimore man who described himself as a Hillary Clinton fan. “There has never been a person running for president to come to our neighborhood.”

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, visited West Baltimore after the riots in late April, but he had not announced his candidacy at that time.

The unrest in Baltimore has pushed its way into the presidential campaign, where Clinton has faced questions about the tough-on-crime policies popular during President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s, and O’Malley has been asked about mass arrests during his tenure as mayor of Baltimore.

Sanders, whose home state of Vermont is 95 percent white, has been reaching out to African-American leaders and activists since members of the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted a speech he was giving in Phoenix in July.

Clinton, meanwhile, has received endorsements from several prominent black leaders in Congress.

anders met with faith leaders including the Rev. Jamal H. Bryant of the Empowerment Temple in Northwest Baltimore. The group discussed criminal justice reform, education and the lack of services found in many urban neighborhoods.

“It is very expensive to be poor,” Sanders told the pastors. “I didn’t see a decent grocery store around here. So what are moms feeding their kids?”

Sanders also fielded several questions about interactions with policy and recidivism.

One pastor, in discussing the militarization of police, said that his daughter was afraid of law enforcement: “She’s freaking out.”

Bryant stressed that the meeting with leaders did not constitute an endorsement of his candidacy. He said he hoped to meet with other candidates.

“It was so important for us that the senator did not just hear statistics and testimony without seeing the face of a community that is in urgent need of assistance,” Bryant said. “This is not just a Baltimore problem, it is a black America problem.”

Longtime civil rights leader Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham said that the event’s organizers and other leaders made a mistake in not focusing more attention on neighborhoods west of Fulton Avenue, where Gray attended school and where the riots also shuttered businesses.

“We’re just demanding that they consider all the communities,” Cheatham said. “You need to come west to understand what happened.”

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Bernie Sanders Appears Irritated After Being Pressed About Reparations!

Sen. Bernie Sanders Introduces Medicare For All Act Of 2017U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) (C) speaks on health care as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (2nd L) listens during an event September 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

 

When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was asked whether he endorsed reparations for the descendants of slaves in the U.S. during a CNN town hall earlier this week, he responded with another question: “What does that mean?”

The Democratic presidential hopeful wasn’t soliciting moderator Wolf Blitzer for a quick dictionary break—although the Associated Press notes that the Democratic candidates have been trying to “embrace a new meaning” of the word.

“I’m not sure anyone’s very clear,” Sanders, who didn’t support reparations during his unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid, continued.

While several other 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have recently voiced support slavery reparations, what form those reparations would take is unclear.

Should reparations involve the literal payment of damages to the families of slaves? Or should those reparations be made, not through direct monetary compensation, but through policies that benefit black Americans to close opportunity gaps?

It depends on who you ask.

“‘Race-conscious policies’ are not a substitute for reparations, because they treat a symptom without acknowledging the cause,” Democratic hopeful Marianne Williamson—lesser known in the political realm, although well-known as a best-selling author and as a spiritual adviser to Oprah—tells Fortune. “As a consequence they don’t have the kind of psychological or emotional force that fundamentally impacts a culture. In fact, they can actually increase the problem if Americans don’t have a deep understanding of why the policies are appropriate.”

Thus far, Williamson is the only official 2020 candidate to openly support giving direct monetary compensation to the descendants of slaves. Naming reparations a key issue on her campaign website, she suggests dispersing $200 billion to $500 billion to the ancestors of slaves over the course of 20 years.

“It’s not enough to just say there’s an economic gap between black and white America and we need to treat it; we have to acknowledge why there is a gap,” Williamson says. Although she acknowledged that progress has been made in years since the Civil War, in spite of recent setbacks in voter suppression, she says, “What was never done, and what remains to be done, is economic restitution.”

Although fellow candidate Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and Obama administration official, hasn’t gone so far as to state he would definitively endorse monetary reparations, he has said that they should be considered a viable option and promised to create a task force that would analyze how reparations could be made.

“It is interesting to me that, under our Constitution and otherwise, that we compensate people if we take their property,” Castro told Hardball on Wednesday. “Shouldn’t we compensate people if they were property, sanctioned by the state?”

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Hardball

@hardball

“It is interesting to me that under our Constitution and otherwise, that we compensate people if we take their property. Shouldn’t we compensate people if they were property sanctioned by the state?” @juliancastro on reparations.

The American government has previously paid reparations to descendants of Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, as well as to victims of state-mandated sterilizations and of the Public Health Service’s 1932 Tuskegee experiment that purposely infected, and failed to treat, black men with syphilis.

Despite these precedents, Hardball reported that 68% of Americans are opposed to reparations for the descendants of slaves. In fact, reparations have been outright dismissed by otherwise progressive politicians—President Barack Obama didn’t endorse them—or have been “redefined” to mean policies that lower the opportunity gap.

Although Senator Harris and Senator Warren told the New York Times that they “support” slavery reparations, they declined to give specific details about what they meant.

After giving her statement of support to the Times, Harris told the Grio that she would address reparations in economic policies including tax breaks for low- to middle-class Americans, which includes black families who had been negatively impacted by slavery.

But when reporter Natasha Alfred directly asked if Harris had a “particular policy for African-Americans that [she] would explore”—rather than policies that would “by default affect black families”—the California Democrat said that she didn’t.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to do something that’s only going to benefit black people. No,” Harris said. “Because whatever benefits that black family will benefit that community and society as a whole and the country.”

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Natasha S. Alford 🇺🇸+🇵🇷✊🏾👩🏾‍💻🎥

@NatashaSAlford

I had just a few seconds left before my interview with Sen. Kamala Harris was about to wrap, so I asked about reparations for Black Americans (the context of the interview was her proposed policy agenda for Black America).

🎥 @theGrio