Repost via The International Business Times
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for criminal justice reform and discussed the Black Lives Matter movement Saturday at the BET's Presidential Justice Forum. Sanders opened his speech at the bipartisan event by listing off what he called "horrible facts."
"I’m going to start with an issue that is on everyone’s mind, the continuing struggle for racial justice in America," Sanders said, reported Fusion. Sanders then listed off a number of statistics, such as black people being imprisoned at six times the rate of white people and one out of 15 African-American men being incarcerated.
"These are shocking statistics to say the least," Sanders said. "But before we even address those, we have to deal with the most urgent and obvious issue that needs to be addressed head on. And that is the killing of African-Americans by police or deaths while in custody."
Sanders was interrupted by a Black Lives Matter activist at a campaign event in Seattle in August. "My name is Marissa Janae Johnson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seattle," she said, CNN reported. "I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you already did it for me, thank you."
In April Sanders called the Baltimore protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody a "state and local issue" and he noted the need to create jobs to make sure kids are in schools and not prisons. Fusion noted Sanders' tone regarding the Black Lives Matter movement was different Saturday.
“[People] must do more than just echo the phrase Black Lives Matter,” Sanders said. “We must put actions behind those words. Actions that will bring about the fundamental reform that is needed in the face of this crisis. Criminal justice reform must be the civil rights issue of the 21st century and the first piece has to be police reform. The killings of African-Americans has got to stop.”
Sanders also said that he would call for body cameras on police, public records of civilian deaths in police custody and funding to help improve policing standards. He also said that he would look at inequities in the education system and the persistent wealth gap between white and black Americans
Democratic hopeful Martin O'Malley and Republican candidate Ben Carson also attended the forum. O'Malley noted in his speech that Maryland had repealed the death penalty under his leadership as governor. Carson talked about living by godly principles and said people needed to be well-informed, according to a video posted by BET. Hillary Clinton was invited to attend the forum, but she decided to opt out.