Bernie Sanders to Black Student: ‘Respect’ Cops ‘So that You Don’t Get Shot in the Back of the Head’

2020 US Democratic Presidential hopeful US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco, California on August 23, 2019. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participated in a criminal justice forum at Benedict College on Saturday and told a black male student — who asked for advice on how to handle an interaction with a police officer — to “respect what they [police officers] are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”

Sanders participated in the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at the historically black college on Saturday and took a question from an audience member, who asked, “If I was your son, what advice would you give me the next time I would be pulled over by a police officer?”

The presidential hopeful told the student that he would suggest politely asking for the officer’s name and stressed respecting what the officer is doing “so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”

“I would do my best to identify who that police officer is in a polite way, ask him or her for their name,” Sanders began.

“I would respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head, 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,” he continued, urging his hypothetical son to exercise caution.

“So, to answer your question, I would be very cautious if you were my son in terms of dealing with our police officers, but I would also defend my rights and know my rights and make sure, if possible, that police officer’s [body] camera is on,” he added:

Many on social media were not pleased by Sanders’ answer.

“Lord, @TheDemocrats are in real trouble. They NEED the Black vote in both elections,” one user wrote.

“Showing an officer ‘respect’ still regularly gets Black people killed because racism,” another tweeted.

“Oooohhhhh, so all those victims of police shootings were… just asking for it… Gotcha,” another added.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) was presented with a similar question.

“If I were your daughter, what advice would you give me the next time I am stopped by police?” a young black woman asked.

“If you were my daughter, you would be a Caucasian girl and you wouldn’t be pulled over,” Biden said to applause.

“Here’s the deal. What I would tell you is that’s what’s wrong. That is what’s wrong. There is institutional racism that still exists,” he added:

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also attended the event, despite pledging to skip it the day prior due to the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center’s recognition of President Trump.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin (D) assured candidates that the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center had nothing to do with the event, which prompted Harris’s reversal.

“I am excited to welcome presidential candidates to a criminal justice forum dialogue which will allow Benedict College students and the wider community to have full participation,” Benjamin said.

“I want to be clear that the Candidate Forums are hosted by myself and Benedict College. This portion of the weekend is not a 20/20 Presidential Justice Center event,” he added.

Despite that, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center “maintained a presence there throughout the day,” the Washington Post reported, even tweeting images from Harris’s discussion:

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