Bernie Sanders holds first New York rally: Rosario Dawson and Spike Lee lend support
At his first New York rally in the Bronx, the Bern tells supporters they are at the centre of his revolution
Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn. And when he travelled uptown to the Bronx he reminded people that he had been raised in the city and was proud to call himself a New Yorker.
With a voice raspy from too many campaign stops bouncing off the public housing buildings that surrounded St Mary’s Park, the Vermont senator insisted that he was on course for the White House - despite the lead his rival Hillary Clinton had on him. His campaign said there were 18,500 people gathered to hear him speak about his revolution.
His stump speech - polished and honed after campaigning from the Mid West to Washington state - was tweaked to take in his locale. “Rather than spending trillions of dollars invading Iraq - something that should never have happened - we should be investing in communities like the South Bronx,” he declared to loud roars.
He said “every kid in the South Bronx” should be able to afford an education.
“We want a government that represents all of us, not wealthy campaign contributors,” he added. “We want a campaign finance system that is not corrupt. We want an economy that is not rigged. We want a criminal justice system that is not broken.”
Sanders is battling hard to close the delegate gap with Ms Clinton, who also appears to have a sizable advantage ahead of the New York primary on April 19. An average of polls collated by Real Clear Politics gives the former secretary of state a lead of anywhere up to 27 points.
Many, if not most, of those who turned out to hear Mr Sanders speak on Thursday night were young. But there were older people and the middle-aged as well. And unlike at some of Mr Sanders rallies in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire, the crowd was also ethnically diverse, befitting of a melting pot such as New York.
“I learned a little bit about what it means to grow up in a family that has no money and I also learned a little bit about the immigrant experience - those lessons I will never forget,” said Mr Sanders, whose parents were Polish immigrants.
Those gathered said they believed the former mayor of Burlington could achieve things that no other candidate could.
Paul Nagel, 58, a gay rights and housing activist, said Mr Sanders would go into the Oval Office on the back of a popular movement and that he could continue to listen to the people. “What we’re seeing now feels 1969,” he said.
Matt Shea, 23, a student of arts management, said it was important to him that Mr Sanders had not taken large donations from corporations. He said he believed Mr Sanders would work for a national minimum wage. “He supports ordinary people rather than people with lots of money,” he said.
Maria Hooper, 35, a costume designer, had travelled from Brooklyn to see him. “He stands for medicare, a living wage, a balanced life, food sustainability, education,” she said.
Tyra Foote, 18, was preparing to vote in her first election. Sitting on the hillside waiting for Mr Sandes to appear, she said she had already made up her mind to vote for him.
“A lot of people don’t have jobs. If he becomes president, unemployment could go down,” she said.
A man who asked to give only his first name - Ravi - said he believed Mr Sanders would help make college more affordable. The 29-year-old banker added: “There is a massive amount of student debt.”
Semut Durham, 28, who also works in financial services, said he hoped Mr Sanders would dismantle the link between retail banks and commercial banks. He said he also believed that if Mr Sanders were president, “there would perhaps not be so many wars”.
Samuel Kim, 19, a political science student, said he was struck by the authenticity of Mr Sanders. He said he believed his policies were thought through and considered, rather than selected to please a certain section of society. “I think there would be a period of introspection,” he added.
Mr Sanders was introduced by actor Rosario Dawson and the director Spike Lee, who urged people to “talk to their parents” as many elder voters were backing Ms Clinton. Mr Sanders spoke for more than 45 minutes and by the time he had finished, the light was fading.
“Real change takes place when millions of people look around them and say the status quo is unacceptable. Where we are right now is a pivotal point in our country’s history,” he said.
“This campaign is about creating a political revolution. You are the heart and soul of this revolution.”