Bernie Sanders came to Harlem on Friday to the historic Apollo Theater for a panel discussion with civil rights activists.
He was asked about former President Bill Clinton‘s clash earlier this week with protesters in Philadelphia. Demonstrators there confronted Clinton over a 1994 crime bill he signed into law which led to a surge in black people being imprisoned. The protesters also said Hillary Clinton was insensitive to call young people “super predators” who need to “be brought to heel.’ President Clinton defended his wife’s remarks.
“The president owes the American people an apology for trying to defend the indefensible,” Sanders said. He called the president’s remark “unacceptable.”
Sanders also faulted a Clinton-era welfare reform bill that the senator blamed for a spike in extreme poverty in the United States.
If he’s elected president, Sanders said, “We’re not going to be beating up on the poor.”
The exchanges came during a panel discussion with singer and activist Harry Belafonte, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner and Erica Garner. Her father, Eric Garner, was choked to death by police on Staten Island in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes.
Spike Lee, the famous filmmaker, was scheduled to be on the panel but was unable to participate. He did produce a television commercial for Sanders that the campaign released on Saturday.
The community discussion took place on the same stage where many of Sanders’ Motown favorites – Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Supremes – had once performed.
Walking on stage, the senator honored an old Apollo Theater tradition and rubbed the stump, a tradition begun by contestants performing in Amateur Night to rub the tree for good luck.
“It is an honor to be in this iconic theater,” Sanders said.