A crowd of over 10,000 gathered on Wednesday, April 6 at Temple University in a campaign rally supporting Democratic primary candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Voters can vote in the Pennsylvania’s primary election on April 26. The primaries are closed, so only registered voters of each political party will be able to vote in their party’s election.
Sanders’ supporters began lining up around Temple University’s Liacouras Center as early as 10 a.m. Lines wrapped around the stadium and continued to stretch as far as four blocks down Broad Street. Sanders spoke to an overflow crowd of nearly 1,000 prior to his main appearance.
The crowd consisted of mostly younger supporters, many of them between the ages of 18 and 30.
“I’ve been supporting Bernie Sanders since 2015,” said John Edwards of Upper Darby. “I trust him. I trust that he’s been consistent in what he believes.”
The crowd was not not limited to the younger generation. Jay Falstad travelled from Millington, Maryland to show his support.
“He’s the only candidate standing up for young people,” he said. “They’re our future.”
Falstad held a sign that read: “I’ve been a republican for 32 years and I’m voting for Sanders.”
“The other candidates just make a mess of things,” Falstad said.
Supporters old and young came out to show their support. A group of children hoisted a banner reading “Kids for Bernie”.
Volunteers lined the streets and the floor of the Liacouras Center. Naz Okan of North Philadelphia handed out wristbands to the people on the center’s floor.
“He makes connections with his people,” she said. “While other candidates are eating at fast food restaurants, he’s eating fast food like us. He’s genuine.”
Thunderous applause interrupted Sanders’ speech on countless occasions. He began with a rundown of the current poll numbers, and recounted his recent win in WI, which came as a surprise to the Clinton campaign.
“Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous,” Sanders said.
Sanders discussed corruption in campaign funding and politics in general, calling out Republican governors.
“If you don’t have the guts to participate in fair, free elections, get out of politics,” said Sanders.
He spoke out against a “corrupt campaign finance system” in which billionaires pump millions of dollars into campaign funds.
“It’s not democracy,” he said. “It’s oligarchy. We will not allow this to happen.”
Sanders cited the Waltons, of Wal-Mart fame, as an example of the “rigged economy.”
Many employees of Wal-Mart rely on Medicaid and food stamps to survive. To the Waltons, Sanders said, “Get off welfare, and pay your workers.”
During his speech, Sanders stated that America has “more people in jail than any other country on earth.”
He compared U.S. rates of mass incarceration to those of China, a communist authoritarian country four times the size of the U.S. that has a lower incarceration rate. Sanders called to end the privatisation of prisons and to “rethink the war on drugs.”
Sanders brought up the issue of youth unemployment, stating 36 percent of our white youth, 36 percent of our Hispanic and Latino youth, and 51 percent of our African American youth are unemployed or underpaid.
“It makes more sense to invest in our young people on jobs and education, not jail and incarceration,” he said.
On the subject of marijuana, Sanders said that he doesn’t believe possession should be a federal crime, and the issue of legalization is up to the states. Sanders previously introduced legislation in the past to take marijuana off the Schedule One drug list, which includes heroin and bath salts.
“A lot of people argue the pluses and minuses of marijuana, but marijuana is not heroin, that is for sure,” he said.
On Secretary Clinton’s campaign, Sanders said, “I don’t believe she is qualified.”
He cited her voting for the war in Iraq and her support of disastrous trade agreements. Sanders said he strongly opposed the Panama Free Trade Agreement.
Sanders also discussed his plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“If you work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty. Real change never takes place from the top down. It is always from the bottom up,” said Sanders.
Supporters were impressed with Sanders’ speech.
“He’s the most honest politician,” said Kathryn Hiester of West Philadelphia. “He is accountable for all his voters.”
Jennifer MacMillan, a long-time Sanders supporter, said she couldn’t get behind Clinton at the start of the election season.
“When Bernie got into the ring, it was a game changer,” she said.
MacMillan frequently volunteers, donates when she can and even hosted a successful phone-bank party on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This was her first rally.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” she said.
Doug Myers is a fourth-year student majoring in liberal studies with minors in philosophy and journalism. Contact them at DM793099@wcupa.edu