Pete Buttigieg pressured at New Hampshire debate over marijuana arrests of black people as mayor

The racial disparity was allegedly the highest in the state.

February 7, 2020, 11:56 PM

Pete Buttigieg faced intense questioning at the Democratic debate over his time as mayor in South Bend, Indiana, when arrests of black people for marijuana possession were four times higher than that of a white person.

Buttigieg disputed the claim during Friday night's debate saying, "the reality is, on my watch drug arrests were lower than the national average and specifically to marijuana, lower than Indiana."

He then spoke about the systematic racism that has "penetrated to every level of our system."

However, ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis pressed on and said there was, in fact, an increase. Davis said when Buttigieg took office in 2012, the numbers had increased and were still up in 2018, the most recent year the number was recorded.

The racial disparity in South Bend regarding marijuana arrests was higher than the rest of Indiana and higher than the rest of the nation, according to Davis.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 7, 2020.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Buttigieg appeared to side-step the question.

"Yeah. And one of the strategies that our community adopted was to target when there were cases where there was gun violence and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many in our community, burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers, we adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement would be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent group or gang connected to a murder," he said.

"These things are all connected. But that's the point."

Davis then asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, if the answer was substantial.

"No," Warren swiftly replied to applause from the audience.

"We need to rework our criminal justice system from the very front end on what we make illegal all the way through the system and how we help people come back into the community," she said.

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