On Tuesday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did something no other presidential candidate has done – he visited the Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was killed by police in April.
Accompanied by his wife and a group of Baltimore’s black clergy led by Rev. Jamal Bryant, Sanders walked through Sandtown-Winchester, starting at the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire during the rioting after Grey’s funeral. He then went to the corner where Gray was loaded into a police van and visited the community mural that was painted in honor of Freddie.
The neighborhood they walked through had nearly half of all stores and homes boarded up. There is no grocery store.
— Devin | Allen (@byDVNLLN) December 8, 2015
“We are less than an hour away from the White House and the United States Congress. It is stunning to understand that we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and every year we are seeing more and more millionaires and billionaires, but in communities like this, we are seeing kids dropping out of school, living in dilapidated housing. It is time to transform our national priorities.”
Many community members urged Sanders to take action on ending police brutality.
Senator Sanders likened what he saw in the impoverished area to a Third World country, stating: “Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you are in a wealthy nation. You would think you are in a third world country. We need to start investing in communities all over this country today that are hurting, that are often forgotten about.” He took time to speak with local ministers, activists, and community leaders about lack of opportunity, banking, and ever grocery stores.
The group of African American pastors that toured with Sanders were not easy on him. They questioned him on police militarization, economic opportunities specifically in poor areas, and mass incarceration. None of them have publicly endorsed Sanders yet, stating that they have scheduled talks with other presidential candidates that will take place in the next few weeks.
Sanders has been a strong proponent for racial justice and a supporter of the Black Lives Matters movement. Regardless, he still has a ways to go to encourage African American voters to vote for him rather than Hillary Clinton, who currently holds the majority of the African American vote.