KENNER, La. (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders wrapped up a weekend campaign swing in Louisiana with a typically fiery speech railing against income inequality and touching on issues of racism and criminal justice during a rally that drew close to 4,000 people to a suburban New Orleans convention center Sunday night.
The rally capped a weekend of events that also saw the Vermont senator, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, address the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Baton Rouge — a chance to emphasize his history of civil rights work after he was heckled last month by demonstrators protesting police brutality and the treatment of black people by law enforcement.
He also discussed gun control in Louisiana, saying Americans must reach a consensus on “common sense” gun control.
Sunday night’s speech in Kenner dealt mostly with economic issues. Among Sanders’ remedies for an economy that he says benefits billionaires at the expense of the middle class were a $15 minimum wage, mandatory family leave for new parents and a massive program providing jobs by upgrading national infrastructure.
Near the end, he addressed the case of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in a Texas jail in what authorities said was a suicide, after she was arrested by a white police officer during a traffic stop.
“When an African-American woman gets yanked out of her car,” he said, interrupted by shouts and cheers from the crowd in support of his remarks, “when we all know that would not have happened to a middle-class white woman, we know we need some serious change in criminal justice in this country.”
His gun control remarks were made earlier Sunday as he was questioned on NBC’s Meet the Press while he was in New Orleans — a two-hour drive from where a gunman opened fire in a Lafayette movie theater Thursday night.
He noted the national discord over the gun issue.
“But coming from a rural state, I think I can communicate with folks coming from urban states where guns mean different things than they do in Vermont where it’s used for hunting,” Sanders said. “That’s where we’ve got to go. We don’t have to argue with each other and yell at each other. We need a common sense solution.”
Sanders said Americans must find agreement on gun laws, such as improved background checks to prevent gun sales to people with criminal records or a history of mental instability or domestic abuse.
He participated in Sunday morning’s Meet the Press broadcast from New Orleans, a two-hour drive from Lafayette, where a gunman opened fire in a movie theater Thursday night.
The Louisiana events came a month after Sanders was heckled in Phoenix at the annual Netroots Nation convention by demonstrators protesting police brutality and the treatment of black people by law enforcement.
At the SCLC event on Saturday, Sanders stressed his participation in civil rights protests as a college student and his work for housing desegregation in Chicago while a member of the Congress for Racial Equality. And he sought in remarks prepared for the event to link fights for racial equality to his campaign theme of the need to address wealth and income inequality, citing remarks by Martin Luther King in 1968, linking racial justice to the availability of jobs.