The Democratic presidential hopeful was speaking at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College, an HBCU in South Carolina, on Saturday (October 26) when a student named Jamil Lautner, a sports management major, asked him, “If I was your son, what advice would you give me the next time I would be pulled over by a police officer.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Sanders responded, “I would do my best to identify who that police officer is in a polite way, ask him or her for their name. I would respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”
The Vermont senator continued, “But I would also be very mindful of the fact that as a nation we have got to hold police officers accountable for the actions that they commit. So, to answer your question, I would be very cautious, if you were my son, in terms of dealing with that police officer, but I would also defend my rights and know my rights and make sure, if possible, that police officer’s camera is on what goes on.”
The video was seen by 1.4 million and received mixed messages with many calling Sanders out for not being prepared to answer such a question.
“He was not prepared for this one, was he,” one person wrote in response to the video Chris Evans shared.
Evans tweeted in response to that message, “Which is strange considering the whole forum is about criminal justice.”
Sanders later tweeted the video and wrote, “If you are wealthy and powerful, or maybe the president, you are above the law. But if you are poor, if you’re Black, if you’re Hispanic, it’s a different story. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I happen to believe in equal justice for all people.”
Fellow Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden was asked the same question by a Black female student during the forum.
“If I were your daughter, what advice would you give me the next time I am stopped by the police,” she asked.
“If you were my daughter, you would be a Caucasian girl and you wouldn’t be pulled over,” Biden responded in a video he posted to his Twitter page.
Some in the audience responded with laughter, in the video tweet in which Biden captioned, “Institutional racism should no longer exist. As president, I’ll put forward change to help put an end to it.”
“No, but here’s the deal,” Biden said at the forum. “What I would tell you is that’s what’s wrong. That is what’s wrong. There is institutional racism that still exists.”
(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
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