Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Addresses Chicago Supporters

"We're not going to be firing teachers. We're going to be hiring teachers," Sanders said

Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders traveled to Chicago Wednesday to meet with supporters and talk about his plan for criminal justice reform.

Sanders first attended an invitation-only community gathering hosted by Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at a popular Mexican restaurant, where he addressed immigration comments made by Donald Trump.

"We will not accept candidates like Donald Trump, referring to Mexican people as criminals and rapists," Sanders said. "We're going to end that. We're going to shut the door on racism."

Sanders said the country needs to invest more in jobs and education and "not in more jail and in more incarceration." 

"We're not going to be firing teachers. We're going to be hiring teachers," Sanders said.

Just before 5 p.m., Sanders also held a press conference at the Village Leadership Academy, located at 1001 W. Roosevelt.

Chicago’s criminal justice system has been spotlighted in recent weeks following the release of dashcam video showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teen 16 times. The video has prompted the firing of the city’s police superintendent and sparked an investigation by the Department of Justice into the police department’s practices. The officer involved has also been charged with first-degree murder.

In response to the video, Sanders called for "fundamental reform" in the criminal justice system and asked activists to take action beyond chanting "Black Lives Matter."

"All Americans should be sickened by the video of Laquan McDonald's murder," he said in a statement. "As a nation we must do more than just echo the phrase Black Lives Matter. We must put actions behind these words. Actions that will bring about the fundamental reform that is needed in the face of this crisis. Criminal justice reform must be the civil rights issue of the 21st century and the first piece must be putting an end to the killing of African Americans by police officers."

Most recently, Sanders spoke out about a grand jury decision not to indict sheriff’s officials and jailers in the Texas county where Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell over the summer.

The Chicago-area woman was pulled over July 10 for making an improper lane change. Dashcam video showed the traffic stop quickly became confrontational and Bland was found hanged in her jail cell three days later.

“Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody,” Sanders said in a statement. “There's no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman. My thoughts are with her family and her loved ones tonight. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.”

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