Buttigieg calls for scrapping death penalty, open to slavery reparations

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Thursday called for abolishing the death penalty and voiced support for studying the possibility of reparations for descendants of slaves.

Pointing to sentencing disparities, the South Bend, Indiana mayor said that “it is time to face the simple fact that capital punishment as seen in America has always been a discriminatory practice. We would be a fairer and safer country when we join the ranks of modern nations who have abolished the death penalty.”

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The one-time long shot for the Democratic nomination, who’s seen his stock rise in recent weeks, made his comments during an appearance in New York before the National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization founded by Al Sharpton.

Buttigieg now joins several other of the higher-profile Democratic presidential contenders in calling for an end to capital punishment. Among them are Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have said they'd suspend the death penalty if they make it to the White House.

The death penalty is disproportionally applied to minorities. Black Americans make up 13 percent of the country’s population but 42 percent of the people on death row, according to statistics from the NAACP.

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Each presidential candidate speaking at this week'S NAN conference has been asked their stance on reparations, and Buttigieg was no exception.

Asked if he would support a bill currently in the House of Representatives that would study and consider reparation payments, Buttigieg answered “I would” and explained why the issue is “so important.”

“The country as a whole is effectively segregated by race and the resources are different. There is a direct connection between exclusion in the past and exclusion in the present,” he emphasized.

The idea of slavery reparations for black Americans is at least partially backed by six other Democratic presidential candidates so far – Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, O’Rourke, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who served as housing secretary under President Barack Obama, businessman and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who has co-sponsored the House bill.

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Buttigieg – in a campaign video released early on Thursday – hinted that he would formally declare his candidacy for president at an event in South Bend on April 14. The candidate has enjoyed large crowds on the campaign trail, a blitz of media attention and a surge in fundraising over the past month.