Presidential candidates sound off on MU protests

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DES MOINES - After weeks of protest on the MU campus, the Democratic candidates shared their views of racism on college campuses Saturday night during their second debate. 


"I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out," Hillary Clinton said. 

"Obviously, on a college campus, I think there should be enough respect so people hear each other, but what's happening at the university there and other universities I think reflects the deep sense of concern and despair that so many people of color have."


On the topic of race and activism, Bernie Sanders said, "51 percent of high school African-American graduates are unemployed or underemployed."

Sanders says the issue of race and crime in America is a larger problem that should be talked about.

"We're spending $80 billion locking people up - disproportionately Latino and African-Americans. We need, very, clearly major reform in a broken criminal justice system from top to bottom," Sanders said.


The commentary by Democratic candidates comes after Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump both spoke out about the protests earlier in the week.

"I think the two people that resigned are weak, ineffective people. I think when they resigned it is going to set something in motion that will be a disaster for a long period of time," said Trump.

Trump also spoke against the protectors calling their demands "crazy."

"Trump should have been the president of that university. Believe me, there would have been no resignation," he said with a laugh. 


Carson focused more on the first amendment debate surrounding the actions of MU Communications professor Melissa Click and Assistant Director of Greek Life and Leadership Janna Basler.

"To say I have the right to violate your civil rights because you are offending me is un-American. It is unconstitutional," Carson said.


Prior to the debate, MU Political Science Professor Cooper Drury said, "That's going to catch the national attention. The fact that it's a hunger strike, that's going to catch it. It's around an important issue of racism, so I think all these things have bubbled up."

Drury says the free speech debate is a big talking point for Republicans.

"I really think this was a turning point for the Republicans," he said. "I think this idea to push the media out and then to begin issuing statements about hurtful speech not being acceptable, when unfortunately it is."


In the democratic debate, the focus of the protests at MU circled around topics of education and the Black Lives Matter movement.


"It's not just a question for parents and grandparents to answer. It's really a question for all of us to answer. Every single one of our children deserves the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential," Clinton said. 


The one common agreement though that appeared on both sides was the desire for both sides to start a conversation about these issues and concerns.

"The two sides need to sit down and have an open discussion. It's part of the problem that's going on in our country right now. We have people that get in their respective corners and demonize each other, but there is no conversation." Carson said.


The next Democratic debate is Dec. 19 in Manchester, N.H., and the next Republican debate will be in Reno, Nev. on Dec. 15.