Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on Sunday that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersObama makes 0K for speech at A&E event: report Van Jones: Obama should do ‘poverty tour’ Sanders calls for renewed focus on fighting climate change MORE (I-Vt.) is a life-long defender of minorities.
“Bernie has become somebody I have tremendous respect for and is an ally of mine in addressing issues in the United States Senate that affect minority communities,” he said.
“He has a long record of civil rights,” Booker told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
Booker’s defense of Sanders follows a protest of the Vermont lawmaker’s campaign stop in Seattle the day before.
Booker argued on Sunday that the incident — orchestrated by Black Lives Matter activists — shows race relations are still troubling everyday Americans.
“This is a legitimate degree of frustration in this country, in a nation that has yet to confront what I believe are persistent civil rights issues, human rights issues,” Booker said.
“Right now, we have more African Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves in 1850,” he said. “We have a nation that has states like mine that has 14, 15 percent African-Americans, but the prison population is over 60 percent black.
“The criminal justice system is so overbroad right now, that we, as a nation, are spending a quarter of a trillion dollars a year,” Booker added. “And so yes, there’s a reason to be upset.”
Activists claiming affiliation with the Black Lives Matter movement forced Sanders off the stage on Saturday.
He left his planned campaign stop in Seattle without ever speaking, only to score a record turnout of more than 15,000 supporters at another event in the city later that day.
The awkward confrontation is the second time Sanders has had a scheduled appearance disrupted by Black Lives Matter activists since entering the 2016 race.
He encountered a similar protest while visiting Phoenix for the annual Netroots Nation convention last month.