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Bernie Sanders Releases Racial Justice Plan After Black Lives Matter Protests


For months, Senator Bernie Sanders has earned fervent praise and support from liberals. That doesn't include some members of the Black Lives Matter movement. That's despite what Sanders supporters view as his strong record on racial justice and Sanders's own statements supporting the movement, like his remarks today in Oakland.


BERNIE SANDERS: The goals of the Black Lives movement are absolutely right. We are going to end...


B. SANDERS: We are going to end institutional racism.

SIEGEL: So why are many Black Lives Matter activists critical of Sanders? Adrian Florido, of NPR's Code Switch team, explores what's behind the tension.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: On Saturday, Sanders had just begun addressing a rally in Seattle when two Black Lives Matter protesters took the stage and took his microphone.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Bernie says that he's about the people about grassroots movements. The biggest grassroots movement in this country right now is the Black Lives Matter movement.


FLORIDO: It was the second time the Vermont senator has been so publicly challenged by protesters claiming he hasn't done enough to address racial injustice. The first was last month in Phoenix when Sanders appeared on stage at the Netroots Nation Convention.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: We want you to say (unintelligible).

B. SANDERS: OK, hold on.


B. SANDERS: I would - (unintelligible) but I'd like to speak for a few minutes. I was told...

FLORIDO: The interruptions have angered Sanders supporters who say he has a solid record on racial justice, and that by targeting Sanders so publicly, the Black Lives Matter movement is only hurting itself. Tia Oso, one of the protestors who interrupted the Arizona event, disagrees.

TIA OSO: People expect us to behave in a certain way in order to almost earn, right, their sympathy.

FLORIDO: She says her goal in disrupting the event was not to embarrass Sanders, but to make sure issues of racism and police brutality remain at the center of the political conversation. And Oso believes that these impromptu protests are a justifiable tactic.

OSO: Black Lives Matter is a decentralized movement, so we take opportunity at key intervention points as they arrive.

FLORIDO: But the movement itself is not a monolith. The Sanders campaign just appointed an activist who supports Black Lives Matter as its national press secretary. Symone Sanders - no relation to the candidate - addressed the possibility of protests interrupting a Sanders event in Oregon yesterday.


SYMONE SANDERS: This campaign is about bringing people together.


S. SANDERS: So if there happens - we hope there's not a disruption, but if there happens to be a disruption tonight, I want everyone in this stadium to respond with a chant. Can y'all do that for me? Can you do that for me?


FLORIDO: Roderick Morrow, a Twitter activist and comedian who's taken a lead in skewering Sanders online, says the Vermont senator's campaign can't expect activists to keep quiet just because Sanders sees himself as an ally.

RODERICK MORROW: This is an issue that's going to exist whether he's elected or not.

FLORIDO: And members of the Black Lives Matter movement say their efforts are working. On Sunday, the Sander's campaign released its platform for how to address racial injustice and to end what it calls physical, political, legal and economic violence against black and brown Americans. Among his proposals - establishing new federal standards for police training, improving access to quality, affordable child care and investing more than $5 billion in a federal youth employment program. Adrian Florido, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.