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Criminal justice activists shove aside Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders talked to supporters during a University of Washington rally.Joshua Trujillo/Associated Press

SEATTLE — After a weekend confrontation with equal rights advocates, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told a large crowd at the University of Washington campus that he is committed to criminal justice reform and addressing income equality.

Sanders gave his talk to a cheering audience of about 12,000 in a university pavilion on Saturday, a few hours after he was shoved aside by several Black Lives Matter activists who are calling for changes to the criminal justice system.

Sanders eventually left the earlier event at Westlake Park in Seattle without giving his speech.

At the University of Washington rally, he addressed the issues raised by the protesters.


‘‘No president will fight harder to end institutional racism and reform criminal justice system,’’ he told the cheering crowd at Hec Edmundson pavilion, according to the King5-TV station. ‘‘Too many lives have been destroyed by war on drugs, by incarceration; we need to educate people. We need to put people to work.’’

Sanders was just starting to address several thousand gathered at Westlake Park when two women took over the microphone. Organizers couldn’t persuade the two to wait and agreed to give them a few minutes. As Sanders stepped back, the women spoke about Ferguson and the killing of Michael Brown and held a four-minute moment of silence.

When the crowd asked activists to allow Sanders to speak, one activist called the crowd ‘‘white supremacist liberals,’’ according to event participants.

After waiting about 20 minutes, Sanders himself was pushed away when he tried to take the microphone.

Instead, he waved goodbye, left the stage with a raised fist salute, and waded into the crowd. He shook hands and posed for photos for 15 minutes, then left.

The rally at Westlake Park was organized as a birthday celebration for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.