After A String of Victories, Sanders Opens Maryland Campaign HQ

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Former NAACP head Ben Jealous, national press secretary Symone Sanders, local activists and elected officials discuss the Sanders campaign at the Freddie Gray Youth Empowerment Center

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, REPORTER: After string of primary victories over the weekend, supporters of presidential candidate Bernie sanders began to look ahead. In Maryland that meant the formal opening of campaign headquarters and the appointment of a steering committee.

It’s a development that comes on the heels of Sanders recent strong showing, including 5 out of the past six primaries. But more important his supporters say, that his message continues to resonate with voters

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER NAACP HEAD: This campaign is about making sure we actually have a $15/minimum wage across this country. It’s about making sure everyone across this country has access to healthcare. It’s about making sure we go back to frankly the future, as we did 40,50 years ago in this country, when college tuition was almost free at our public universities,to a place where it actually is free. It’s about ending the era of mass incarceration, ending the era of endless war.

NOOR: The announcement comes two days after Sanders defeated opponent Hillary Clinton in landslide victories in three contests, narrowing the former Secretary of State’s delegate lead. If Sanders can do well in important upcoming contests Wisconsin on April 5th and New York state on April 19, Maryland’s April 26th primary, with 118 delegates will be significant. Recent polls have Secretary Clinton leading here by more than 30 points.

SYMONE SANDERS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, SANDERS 2016: We are not concerned about what the polls and the pundits are saying currently right now. We are very interested in getting on the ground in these states opening up our offices, knocking doors, calling folks, and spreading the message of the political revolution. Talking about the rigged economy we live in kept in place by this system of corrupt campaign financing, earning those votes

NOOR: National Press Secretary Simone Sanders also responded to the #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, a response to the mainstream media minimising the support the Vermont Senator has received from people of color

SYMONE SANDERS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, SANDERS 2016:

In places like Hawaii we put out a native Hawaiian policy platform, that spoke to the issues native Hawaiians really care about. We’ve invested substantial amount of resources in a Native American policy, and we’ve introduced that and have been traveling around the country, talking about that. So I really think it’s important to highlight the fact that there is a diverse coalition of people supporting Senator Sanders. And sometimes the media doesn’t cover everything, your corporate-backed mainstream media.

NOOR: The event was held at the Freddie Gray Youth Empowerment Center, lead by Pastor Jamal Bryant who reflected on Sanders’s tour through Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester community iN December , where Freddie Gray lived and was arrested and subsequently died in police custody almost one year ago.

JAMAL BRYANT, PASTOR, EMPOWERMENT TEMPLE: There was in fact a critcal moment when we were walking through the Sandtown community when young people converged from all over the neighborhood, asking for one thing, “Will you bring us jobs?” Without wincing he said “Absolutely.” We are 45 minutes away from the White House and we feel as if are a stepchild, we are neglected, abandoned. With all the 16,000 abandoned homes, an unemployment rate of somewhere 8-9% above the national average, with 70,000 people on Heroin, we are looking for somebody with a promise, with a commitment.

Steering Committee Chair Ben Jealous responded to a question on whether Sanders’ trillion dollar jobs program being “race neutral” would hurt African Americans in Baltimore.

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER NAACP HEAD:Baltimore has been hollowed out. This used to be a steel town. And you can’t explain what happened to Baltimore, quite frankly, without talking about NAFTA, without talking about Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. The notion that we in Baltimore yearn for anything more than jobs– jobs stop bullets. Jobs stop bullets. And, we have tried to end the violence in Baltimore in the absence of jobs, and you know what? It doesn’t work.

NOOR: Symone Sanders also responded to concerns that the Sanders 1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan would mirror public private/private partnerships baltimore has used for decades- Tax Increment Financing or TIF deals that give hundreds of millions of dollars in breaks to wealthy developers but haven’t reduced poverty or created many working-class jobs.

SYMONE SANDERS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, SANDERS 2016: Well I think, we can be sure any plan Senator Sanders puts forward will be a plan for hardworking American people in this country that will benefit the middle class and not those at the top.

Elected officials and activists also spoke out about their support for Sanders

[transcript will be updated]

From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor for The Real News

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.