Walking past abandoned houses and signs calling for peace, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday toured the Baltimore neighborhood that was home to Freddie Gray, the young black man whose death in police custody triggered riots in the city and ultimately the indictment of the involved officers. Sanders said that while the United States is one of the richest countries on the globe, it is stunning that there are such levels of poverty in areas of Baltimore, local media reported.
"It is stunning to understand that we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and every year we are seeing more and more millionaires and more and more billionaires, when in communities like this we are seeing kids dropping out of school, being in bad schools, dilapidated housing," said Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont.
While visiting West Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood with black ministers, Sanders heard the area's residents -- who were shouting Gray's name -- insist that a change is needed in the country. Gray died in April, and the first of six trials for Baltimore police officers charged in his death started this week.
— Devin | Allen (@byDVNLLN) December 8, 2015
Sanders also spoke with local ministers and activists Tuesday, saying a lack of banking options in poorer neighborhoods hurts the residents of those areas. He said many residents are also adversely affected by high interest rates.
“Anyone who took the walk we took around this neighborhood would not think you’re in a wealthy nation; you would think that you’re in a Third World country,” Sanders said of Sandtown-Winchester, according to the Washington Post.
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Sanders hasn’t been as successful as his opponent Hillary Clinton in tapping into the black voter constituency. Prominent African-American academic Cornel West has endorsed Sanders, but Clinton has remained the most popular candidate among black voters, who are expected to play an important role in the South Carolina primary in February.