HOUSTON – There was another big Texas turnout Sunday evening for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who brought his Democratic Party presidential campaign to a packed arena at the University of Houston hours after an even bigger mid-day rally in Dallas.
A crowd of some 5,200 pumped-up, mostly-young people filled the university arena here. Earlier in the day, another 8,000 Texans packed a Dallas hotel.
At both appearances, Sanders discussed wealth and income inequality, the “national tragedy” of youth unemployment, making college tuition-free, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and the need for a massive federal highway construction program to create millions of decent-paying jobs.
He also questioned why the United States puts more people behind bars than any other nation. “When we have so many of our young people in jail, to me it makes sense that we invest more in jobs and education rather than jails and incarceration,” Sanders said.
And here in Houston, Sanders brought up the death last Monday of Sandra Bland, a young African-American woman found dead in her Waller County jail cell 60 miles northwest of Houston. The 28-year-old from suburban Chicago had been arrested July 10 after a routine traffic stop. The medical examiner said her death was a suicide. Bland’s family disputes the finding.
“I wish that in the year 2015, I could tell you that we have eliminated racism in our country but you all know that is not true,” Sanders said.
In citing the death of Bland, Sanders also mentioned other recent deaths of African-Americans in police custody. Eric Garner died one year ago after a New York City a police officer put him in a chokehold. Freddie Gray was a 25-year-old African-American who died last April while being transported in a Baltimore Police van. Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was shot and killed in 2014 by two police officers in Cleveland, Ohio.
“These are the cases that you have heard about recently but anyone who thinks this has not been going on decade after decade would be very wrong,” Sanders said. “It is unacceptable that police officers beat up people or kill people. If they do that, they have got to be held accountable.”
As a former mayor, Sanders said he worked with police. “The vast majority of police officers work hard. It is a very, very difficult job. But if a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable.”