More than a week after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was kept from speaking to a Seattle rally by a pair of Black Lives Matter protesters, the Democratic presidential candidate sat down for a chat with Jesse Jackson.
Sanders was in Chicago today for a meet-and-greet fundraising reception at Park West, off the heels of a packed weekend schedule in Iowa that included opening a field headquarters in Cedar Rapids, a town hall that was expanded to a bigger venue at the last moment in Dubuque, and a union hall meeting in Clinton. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the Iowa State Fair straw poll 49-45 percent.
Even though a Chicago fundraiser sounds Obama-esqe, Sanders’ campaign said the starting ticket price for the 820-people capacity event was $50. His average campaign donation so far has been $31.20.
Before the fundraiser, Sanders went to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition national headquarters for a “very productive” hourlong meeting with Jackson “on important issues confronting the country and the African-American community.”
Sanders, who was active in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement including the March on Washington, has been accused by some activists of not having an understanding of or a good enough plan for racial issues. Activist Deray McKesson tweeted at Sanders, “The first draft of your racial justice platform has promise. When will you be available to discuss enhancements w/ folks?”
Sanders replied today, “Let’s do it. We will [personal message] you this week to arrange.”
Buzzfeed reported Saturday that Sanders’ African-American outreach director, Marcus Ferrell, sent an email to activists apologizing for taking “so long to officially reach out” and saying the campaign wants “to do a better job speaking out on the issues, and as a sitting U.S. Senator, possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change.”
Sanders told Meet the Press on Sunday that email “was sent out by a staffer, not by me.”
“Look, we are reaching out to all kinds of groups, absolutely. I met with people at Black Lives Matter. We’re reaching out to Latino groups. We’re reaching out to the unions. We’re fighting to expand Social Security and we’re reaching out to senior groups. We’re reaching out to health care groups because we believe that everybody in America is entitled to health care. We’re reaching out to everybody,” the senator said.
“But on this issue of Black Lives Matter, let me be very clear, the issue that they are raising is a very, very important issue. There is no candidate for president who will be stronger in fighting against institutional racism and, by the way, reforming a broken criminal justice system.”
Asked if an apology such as that delivered by the staffer was necessary, Sanders replied, “No, I don’t.”
“I think we’re going to be working with all groups,” he said. “This was sent out without my knowledge.”
Tonight, Sanders told the Park West crowd, “As somebody who has one of the strongest civil rights records in Congress, no one will fight harder to end institutional racism in this country and, equally important, reform the criminal justice system.”
“We are going to end this horrendous distinction of having more people in jail than any other country on earth and instead work to create the best-educated population on earth,” he added. “In my view, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to be investing in jobs and education instead of jails and incarceration.”
Jackson tweeted an old photo of the pair to mark their meeting:
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) August 17, 2015