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Syrian Refugees, Police Oversight Highlight Sanders Rally

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Brian Bull
/
WCPN
The Vermont senator began his speech by telling the crowd that the time is now to develop a strategy to destroy the Islamic State in the wake of the attacks that killed 129 people in Paris last week.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told a Cleveland audience that the U.S. shouldn't turn its back on refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.

Sanders spoke Monday before an enthusiastic crowd of about 7,000 people on the campus of Cleveland State University.

The Vermont senator began his speech by telling the crowd that the time is now to develop a strategy to destroy the Islamic State in the wake of the attacks that killed 129 people in Paris last week.

Sanders says a coalition that includes Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries must be created to defeat terrorism. He says he supports the strategies put forward by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to combat the Islamic State.

The largely college-age crowd gave Sanders an especially loud ovation when he brought up an issue that hit close to home.

We have seen….much too often….too many African-Americans…unarmed, killed by the police, when in custody…,” Sanders said.

He was referring to the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice by Cleveland police nearly a year ago, and the “137 shots” case of 2012, when officers fired dozens of rounds into the car of two unarmed suspects.  

Sanders said police officers are largely good, with tough jobs and crazy schedules.  But he said any officer that breaks the law must be accountable, and he said there needs to be greater diversity in America’s police departments.

“So my pledge to you, is that no president will work harder than I in ending institutional racism in this country and in reforming a very, very broken criminal justice system.”

That pledge won over Oberlin college freshman Sadie Keller.

“A lot of candidates have been shoving it under the carpet and not talking about it, and not only did Bernie Sanders acknowledge it, but he came up with ways that he wants to address systematic racial inequality within our country,” Keller said.

Keller said she would like to see Sanders better develop his foreign policy positions.  This was the senator's first campaign stop in Ohio.