COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As thousands gathered at the South Carolina State House to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they were joined by four Democratic presidential candidates.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley each spoke to the large crowd during Monday's rally.
Sanders used his time to address his central theme of what he calls income inequality. The Vermont Senator said that, when it comes to African-American voters, he's playing catchup to a rival with experience and contacts from her previous presidential campaign.
"We have the criminal justice agenda," Sanders said. "We have the economic agenda that I think will bring a significant part of the African American community into our camp. So, we start off at a great disadvantage. Look, Hillary Clinton was here in 2008. She ran a campaign. She knows a lot of people, no question about it. So, we have to catch up."
Sanders also has issues with high incarceration rates for young African-Americans, childhood poverty, and a two-tiered education system that forces many students into substandard schools.
After speaking to the crowd, Sanders spoke with WIS about how he's trying to distinguish his campaign from others when it comes to black voters.
"That we are the campaign that's talking about raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour," Sanders said. "We are the campaign that's talking about making health care in this country available to all people. We are the campaign that's talking about pay equity for women, for changing our trade policies so corporations invest in this country, not just in China. And we are the campaign that has a very detailed criminal justice system that says we've got to end the absurdity of having more people in jail predominantly African-American and Latino than any other country on earth. That's crazy."
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, like Clinton, praised the removal of the Confederate battle flag. O'Malley also echoed Sanders on income inequality, healthcare disparities, underfunded schools, and debt-free college.
Chicago businessman Dr. Willie Wilson also appeared at Monday's rally