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Bernie Sanders Meets With African-American Leaders In Baltimore


Vermont senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign took him to the streets of Baltimore today. Sanders visited Sandtown. That's the neighborhood of Freddie Gray, the young man whose death in police custody earlier this year sparked days of protests and unrest in the city. The senator wanted to talk to the mostly black audience about poverty, affordable housing and education. But as NPR's Sam Sanders reports, that's not quite how the stop turned out.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Bernie Sanders took a walking tour through Sandtown Tuesday morning. It's a poor, mostly black neighborhood in Baltimore, and Sandown burned in some places in the riots that followed Gray's death. But today, there are some signs of recovery. The CVS that was famously looted - it's being rebuilt. Sanders tried to take it all in.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: We got to have you move back.

SAM SANDERS: But the swarm around him was thick - journalists and ministers and locals. Throughout his tour, his tiny security detail struggled.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We don't want to Trump. We don't want Trump.

SAM SANDERS: That guy you just heard yelled out for Sanders to defeat Donald Trump. Other shouted that they wanted jobs, education, afterschool programs. Baltimore pastor Jamal Bryant led the tour. Bryant pointed out the neighborhood's problems along the way, like the fact that there are more check-cashing stores than actual banks in Sandown.

BERNIE SANDERS: Oh, my God. You've got one here. You got one there.

JAMAL BRYANT: Absolutely. You'll see them all down this corridor.

B. SANDERS: And no banks.

BRYANT: And no banks.


SAM SANDERS: In front of a gigantic mural to Freddie Gray, Bernie Sanders stopped and spoke a bit louder.

B. SANDERS: Stunning to understand that we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, but in communities like this, what we're seeing is kids dropping out of school.

SAM SANDERS: But he was drowned out by onlookers who chanted Gray's name. But Sanders stayed on message.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: All night, all day, we going to fight for Freddie Gray.

B. SANDERS: Being in bad schools, being in dilapidated housing...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: All day, all night, we going to fight for Freddie Gray.

B. SANDERS: It's time to transform our national priorities.

SAM SANDERS: That moment could've defined Bernie Sanders' day, but it didn't. Before a press conference a few hours later, his press secretary, Symone Sanders - she said this to the press corp.


SYMONE SANDERS: Don't ask about ISIS (laughter) today. I mean, it's not on topic. So if it comes up and he wants to talk about, the senator will let you know.

SAM SANDERS: Well, it came up, and Sanders turned to the black pastors there at the podium with him when he responded.


B. SANDERS: (Laughter) All right. What about ISIS, Guys? How often are these people talking about the issues that we talked about today?


B. SANDERS: Of course I'll talk about ISIS.

SAM SANDERS: But did he, really?


B. SANDERS: What I have said is that obviously, ISIS and terrorism are a huge national issue that we've got to address. But so is poverty. So is unemployment. So is health care. So is the need to protect working families. And I will continue to talk about those issues. Thank you very much.

SAM SANDERS: And with that, he left the podium. The news may have shifted, but Bernie Sanders would not be moved. Sam Sanders - no relation - NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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