As part of his ongoing effort to connect with Black voters, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders explored the West Baltimore neighborhood that was the site of Freddie Gray’s April arrest and met with local clergy to discuss the area’s plights.
Speaking to both reporters and supporters at the nearby Freddie Gray Empowerment Center earlier today, Sanders voiced the need for economic advancements in the poverty-ridden neighborhood.
“Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you’re in a wealthy nation,” Sanders said. “You would think that you were in a Third World country.”
Following his tour through the neighborhood, the Democratic candidate sat down with Black pastors and faith leaders to discuss both criminal justice and education reform.
“It was so important for us that [Sanders] did not just hear statistics and testimony without seeing the face of a community that is in urgent need of assistance,” said Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, who was present at the meeting, to the Baltimore Sun. “This is not just a a Baltimore problem; it is a Black problem.”
Sanders has been committed to reaching a wider array of voters since Black Lives Matters supporters interrupted his rally in August, demanding that their voices be heard. Since then, Sanders has unveiled a criminal justice reform plan, and he privately met with the mother of Sandra Bland in October.
During today’s Baltimore press conference, Sanders was quick to silence a reporter who asked about ISIS, instead driving the conversation back to the poverty in predominately Black neighborhoods, adding that the government must invest in those communities.
“Today what we’re talking about it a community in which half of the people don’t have jobs, a community in which there are hundreds of buildings that are uninhabitable, a community where kids are unable to go to schools that are decent,” Sanders said.