A national nurses union warmly welcomed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders to Oakland on Monday, along with his message of taxing the wealthy, better health care for all, and free college tuition for students.
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In a short speech before hundreds of nurses, Sanders railed against the one percent who he says are gobbling up property at the expense of everyone else. He said it's crazy that people go to jail for drugs while Wall Street speculators have faced zero punishment. And he said that our paltry health care system is a global embarrassment.
"This land does belong to you and me, it belongs to all of us and not a handful," Sanders said to members of National Nurses United who were at the site and also listening by phone and web.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016. But Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has gained a fervent following among people energized by his populist campaign and his plain talk.
There were no issues involving Black Lives Matter protesters, as had been the case in Seattle Saturday where protesters took over a microphone, forcing Sanders to abandon an afternoon speech.
On Monday, a nurse asked Sanders by phone how he would address racism within the criminal justice system. His answer was prompt.
"When we talk about creating a new America, at the top of our list is the end of racism in all its ugly forms," he said. "All of us were nauseated, when we have seen the videos, whether it's Sandra Bland or other people, we know that if those folks were white they would not be dragged out of cars and thrown into jails."
Bland, a 28-year-old black woman was stopped in July by a white Texas trooper for failing to signal a lane change. The encounter escalated into a physical confrontation and the officer attempted to drag her out.
Bland was booked into jail and found hanging by her neck three days later.
Sanders' response received generous applause in Oakland. A woman in the crowd yelled, "Senator, do Black lives matter to you?"
"Yes," he said.
Democratic candidates, including Sanders, have struggled with activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, who want much more from presidential contenders on racism and race relations.
At a town hall for Democratic presidential candidates in Phoenix last month, protesters took over the stage and disrupted an interview with Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Sanders' weekend swing through the Pacific Northwest and California drew thousands of people. After the abandoned afternoon speech, he spoke to a crowd of 12,000 that night in Seattle and to a crowd of 19,000 in Portland on Sunday night.
On Monday, he also received the endorsement of National Nurses United, which is the largest organization of nurses with 185,000 members.
"I'm excited. Bernie embodies the values that we as nurses embody every day," said Martha Kuhl, a registered nurse at an Oakland hospital, after the event.
Sanders is scheduled to be in Los Angeles Monday night.