At a rally attended by a fully packed house of enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporters, the 2016 Presidential candidate was in Los Angeles yesterday consolidating his support among blacks and Latinos at the Million Dollar Theater.
By Kriss Perras
Sanders emphasized themes of criminal justice reform at the invitation of Shaun King, civil rights activist and co-founder of the Real Justice PAC, which supports Progressive candidates running for district attorney offices. He is associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. King, who had been on the 2016 Presidential trail with Sanders, introduced the Senator highlighting his civil rights past, reminding everyone Sanders led the first known Chicago sit in protesting segregated housing on campuses.
“Bernie was always a fighter. He has always rejected the status quo,” said King in his introduction of the Senator. “It takes guts to do what Bernie did this morning, to stand outside of Disneyland and tell the country that one in 10 of their workers has been homeless in the past two years. That two of out three of Disneyland’s workers are food insecure. That three out of four Disneyland workers don’t even make enough money to afford their basic needs, while their CEO literally makes hundreds of millions of dollars.”
That statement aroused the crowd to loud boos.
“I campaigned for Bernie. I believed he could beat Donald Trump then, and I still believe he could,” said King to the loud cheers of the crowd.
During the 2016 Presidential election, Sanders civil rights record came under question. His protest at Selma and other places were questioned as fact or fiction. The photographers who photographed him have come forward with more photographs and verified they saw him at Selma and pother places. A Snopes fact check uncovered the additional photos and photographers: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sanders-civil-rights-photos/
When King introduced Sanders to the stage, the crowd got on their feet and cheered then chanted “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” all of which lasted more than a continuous minute. It showed the candidate still has a strong support base here. Standing at a podium with a backdrop of people behind him representing the varied demographics of Los Angeles, Sanders tried to start speaking. When the crowd finally settled down in their seats, “Run Bernie Run!” was the first thing he heard. With a big grin his face, the crowd once again erupted in applause. He tried to start speaking a third time, when someone else shouted “2020!” The crowd again started in a lengthy round of applause and cheers! The Senator was having trouble beginning for all the enthusiasm.
“At the end of the day, it’s not Bernie, it’s you and you and you,” said Bernie pointing at various people in the crowd, when he finally could start speaking. “Real change never takes place from the top on down. It’s not this person or that person. It’s millions of people standing up demanding change….It is an honor for me to be here with heros and heroines who address the crisis of a broken criminal justice system…and because of their efforts we are succeeding.”
Sanders had as his introduction a virtual Who’s Who of Black Lives Matter icons, including Patrice Cullors, one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matters movement. Black Lives Matters was founded in 2013 and was set in motion by the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012. (Related article: Zimmerman Accused Of Stalking Private Investigator https://topanga-journal.com/george-zimmerman-accused-of-stalking-pi-making-gator-threat/ )
“We have 2 million people in jail today, more than Communist China,” said Sanders. “It makes no sense at all that those numbers are disproportionately African American, Latino and Native American. It makes no sense that in a nation with so many pressing needs, that we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans. What the American people are saying from Coast to Coast is it’s time for real reform of this disastrous system.”
Sanders’ speech included highlights of his 2016 Presidential run, like his flipping off the establishment, like Wall Street, and new twists, like bail reform.
“All of you know, we don’t have liberty and justice for all. We have one system of justice for the crooks on Wall Street,” said Sanders. “Whose greedy and illegal behavior almost destroyed our entire economy and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and their homes and their life savings. And somebody correct me here, but I don’t recall one of those crooks went to jail.”
The boisterous crowd again was raised to cheers.
“Then we have a different system of justice for a kid who smokes marijuana or another kid who steals a pair of sneakers. We have one system of justice if you are white. And another system of justice if you are black or brown or Native American. Bottom line is we have a criminal justice system today the you’ve heard all these great speakers today talking about that is dysfunctional and destructive of human life.”
That was the familiar part of Sanders’ 2016 Presidential run. He then moved into his new plank in his platform, bail reform.
“Today there are about 2 million people in jail for the crime of being poor,” said Sanders. “There are people in jail by the tens and tens of thousands who are in jail today, because they cannot afford cash bail.”
Sanders went on with an example of somebody who is poor, maybe working a minimum wage job with an apartment. And they can’t afford bail. Then they’re charged with a crime.
“What happens when they’re in jail is they’re going to lose their job, of course they’re going to lose their home. Maybe they’ll lose their kids. How insane is that?” Said Sanders. “Somebody gets stopped by a police officer for speeding, or maybe several times. They get a fine for a couple of hundred dollars. They can’t pay those tickets. They end up in jail. Tens of thousands of Americans should not end up in jail because they can’t pay a municipal ticket.”
Sanders moved on to the topic of the so-called war on drugs. He said, “like every other war, it has destroyed a whole lot of minds.”
Sanders pointed out the Federal Control Substance Act lists heroine, a killer drug, on the same schedule level as marijuana. He said states like California are moving to either legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
“The war on drugs has been especially horrific for the African American community,” said Sanders. “Turns out whites and blacks use marijuana in about equal levels, but blacks are almost four times as likely as whites to get arrested for possession.”
Sanders smashmouthed the $3 billion set aside for the jails in Los Angeles. Instead he was in favor of using that money for educating the juveniles he cited were at an 85% illiteracy rate.
“Here in California it costs twice as much money to put somebody in jail, than it does to put them in the University of California,” said Sanders.
Sanders cited the nation needs to come to terms with mental health and addiction as health issues and not criminal issues.
“Police officers all over this country need to understand that lethal force is the last response and not the first response,” said Sanders. “No more jails. No more incarceration.”
Then Sanders turned and walked off the stage waving to a crowd that got on their feet and wouldn’t stop the applause. Another full minute of applause and cheering went on for the Senator.
There is a tinder box happening already though. During the speech, there were Progressives who got up and protested “Free Palestine! Free Palestine!” Others chanted protests against DC, and still others booed from somewhere in the crowd showing the rally had been infiltrated by a Trump supporter or other candidate. It showed the tinder box of the 2016 campaign was nothing compared to what lies on the horizon for 2020. This crowd was not only happy to have the hint Bernie will run in 2020, but appeared ready for the fight to come.