Bernie Sanders Trashed Police in 1980s Interview with Communist Newspaper: ‘Nazis’

Bernie Sanders Trashed Police in 1980s Interview with Communist Newspaper

Newly discovered documents show presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator representing Vermont, made controversial and offensive remarks about police officers in an interview conducted in the 1980s with a communist newspaper operated by the Socialist Workers Party.

The find was made this week by Heartland Institute Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief Justin Haskins.

In the June 12, 1981, issue of The Militant, Sanders, who had recently been elected the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, told a reporter for the paper in a “special interview” that some police forces “are dominated by fascists and Nazis,” also adding that some police in Burlington are “bad eggs.”

“We’ve got cops here,” Sanders told The Militant, “who are good trade unionists on all the regular trade union issues, and who also have a concern for young people. Probably the major crime problem we have in the city is with young people. They [the police] see the futility of arresting poor kids all the time and they want to get involved in some of the projects which we’re beginning to dent the surface on.” (“[the police]” was added by the author of The Militant article.)

The article then reports, “Sanders added that he knows that some police forces ‘are dominated by fascists and Nazis. . . . But on the other hand, here we have a police force—and we may well have our bad eggs too—but I don’t consider these guys who are making $10,000 a year as my enemies, as much as that may offend certain people in the left-wing movement.'”

According to The Militant, Sanders’ comments were made in reaction to concerns expressed by “some radicals”–a word often used at that time to describe socialists and communists, including Sanders himself–critical of the relatively high degree of support Sanders received from the local police in his 1980 mayoral campaign.

Earlier in the report, prior to Sanders’ controversial comment alleging some police are “dominated by fascists and Nazis,” The Militant reporter conducting the interview with Sanders wrote, “One source of official union support Sanders did get will be, he [Sanders] acknowledged, controversial to some radicals. The local police union decided it had had enough of the Paquette administration and backed Sanders’s campaign.”

Sanders, who now appears well-situated to become the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, has come under fire in recent weeks for other disturbing statements he has made throughout his political career, including his support in the 1980s for the radical Sandinistas in Nicaragua and his praise for authoritarian socialist regimes in Cuba and elsewhere.

Earlier in February, Sanders finished in a virtual tie in the Iowa Caucuses with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and he won the highly coveted New Hampshire Primary. Sanders also won the Democrats’ third primary contest, the Nevada Caucuses, capturing more than 46 percent of the state’s county convention delegates.

Download the June 12, 1981, issue of The Militant by clicking HERE.

PHOTO: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Gage Skidmore. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Stopping Socialism is a project of The Heartland Institute and The Henry Dearborn Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit association of professionals and scholars.