“There are a lot of people here tonight!” observed New York native Bernie Sanders as he began speaking to a raucous, cheering crowd of 27,000 in New York City’s Washington Square park on Wednesday night, at the largest rally of the presidential hopeful’s campaign thus far.
Members of the crowd climbed trees and crowded at the windows of surrounding buildings to catch a glimpse of the Vermont senator, and occasionally punctuated the candidate’s speech with chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
The crowd wore face paint, touted placards declaring “Brooklyn is Berning” and “Democracy v Oligarchy, Humanity v Greed,” and some even arrived sporting Bernie Sanders costumes and puppets.
And while many attendees were young, Sanders also drew an older generation of progressives who remembered attending rallies in Washington Square to protest the Vietnam War in their youth.
One such member of the crowd was Robert Carpenter, a retired accountant and veteran from Queens, who told the New York Times, “Bernie is me. I am Bernie.”
“I’m one year older than him,” Carpenter told the newspaper. “We’ve been fighting for the same causes our entire lives.”
Carpenter also told the Times that he could never vote for Sanders’ opponent: “I will never, ever forgive [Hillary Clinton] for her voting for the Iraq War. To say it was a mistake? After all those people were killed and maimed? I do not accept that.”
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“What this campaign is profoundly about is that change is never from the top on down. It is always from the bottom on up.”
Before Sanders’ speech, the popular NYC-based band Vampire Weekend warmed up the crowd, and speeches from famous New Yorkers Rosario Dawson, Tim Robbins, and Spike Lee followed to praise the so-called outsider candidate to the overwhelming crowd of supporters.
Sanders himself even seemed surprised by the size of the rally, and smiled broadly when he arrived on the stage to deliver a speech that focused on a few of the touchstones of his campaign: corporate greed, campaign finance reform, climate change, and income inequality.
Speaking in the state for which Clinton served two terms as senator, and in the same city Wall Street financiers call home, the outspoken democratic socialist candidate also expressed optimism for his chances of winning the state’s upcoming primary.
“When I look at an unbelievable crowd like this,” Sanders said, “I believe we’re going to win in New York next Tuesday.”
His chances at winning, he argued, were good, particularly if the tens of thousands who came out on a cold Wednesday night to hear him speak presaged a large voter turnout for the state’s April 19 primary.
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