“There are a lot of people here!” Bernie Sanders exclaimed to the immense crowd that had gathered to hear him speak at a rally in Washington Square Park on Wednesday, April 13th.
And there were. Over 27,000 people—NYU students, prospective voters, celebrities, workers on strike, etc.—crammed into the walkways of the park, ushered by police and Sanders’s campaign volunteers to hear the Brooklyn born candidate try and gain as many votes possible before the New York Primary this coming Tuesday (Rucker, Weigel).
People began lining up within the confines of the metal police barriers as early as 7am the morning of the rally. By 5pm the line snaked around more than six city blocks. Police stood on corners and behind the barriers, volunteers decked out in Bernie gear directed the pedestrian traffic, and vendors set up their carts full of Sanders swag and apparel along the streets bordering and intersecting Washington Square.
I got off easy, considering I only joined the waiting crowd a few hours before the rally was anticipated to start. I tried to join the crowd but spent two hours of waiting, then got fed up, and started wandering around the park while searching for a more promising entrance. I ended up giving up, going to Kimmel to sit in the glass stairwell, and eventually returned to the first floor to give my entrance another go. It paid off. I have never seen more people scrambling to funnel into such a small space before. There seemed to be a genuine urgency in the air, and nobody wanted to be left out.
Every inch of the park was filled, save the grass areas that were clearly off limits to spectators. People stood on benches and climbed trees for better views before being told to get down by vigilant police. Helicopters idled overhead, and if you looked close enough you could see some eerie figures on top of the buildings encompassing the park, probably keeping an eye on things.
There was an overwhelming sense of goodwill and community in the hub of our campus that day, something that previous pro-Sanders rallies I had attended noticeably lacked. This was the first rally put on by the official campaign, however, and the promotions of unity and peace without all the cynicism was a huge relief.
The entire spectacle and all the events started at 7pm sharp. Vampire Weekend opened the show with a few songs. There were a handful of speakers preceding the candidate. Dr. Paul Song condemned “democratic whores,” a statement that has been the cause for a fair amount of backlash in the following days, and our fellow NYU grad Spike Lee hyped the crowd with strings of one-liners referencing his movies. It seemed like a little bit of self-promotion, but Ohhhhkkaayyy.
And finally, as the sun went down and the wind picked up, Sanders took the stage.
Illuminated by the bright stage lights, framed by the arch, his voice echoing throughout the city streets, Sanders went on to speak for the next hour, hitting the points his campaign has pushed since the beginning:
Number 1, his underdog status… how he began his campaign 60 points behind Hillary Clinton, now closing the gap to single digits and even taking the cake in two polls.
Number 2, the importance of looking at the bigger picture, he repeated the importance of a “government working for everyone.” He recalled the American dream of parents working hard and giving their kids a better lifestyle to back up his claims to give every “man, woman, and child a chance a better life.”
Number 3, he highlighted the importance of breaking up the big banks and taking political influence away from the corporations. He also noted that members of the CWA have been protesting Verizon’s outsourcing of jobs and were in attendance at the rally that day, seated in the front row. Sanders saluted them and cited their strife as the epitome of America’s class issues, the imbalance of power and monetary distribution.
Number 4, his stark differences in stances with fellow candidate Hillary Clinton. How each of them has gone about raising money, their trade, foreign, and environmental policies. Boos would rumble throughout the crowd every time the name her name was said, as was the case with the name Donald Trump.
And finally, affordable public education for all. Sanders emphasized the right to affordable education that should be everyone’s.
This proved to be the overall thread of his speech, not everyone receiving what they deserve on a basic human level. Whether it is proper healthcare, wages for a decent lifestyle, or public education, Sanders’s ultimate platform is to give to the people what they deserve as people. In so many words, taking care of everyone and anyone.
And in a time when the country seems to be in need of a serious reevaluation of its tolerance, understanding, and judging (a racist spray-tanned lunatic has made it this far in his bid to be president, for Godssake), Sanders seems to be the best man for the job.
Rucker, Philip, and David Weigel. “Bernie Sanders Rallies 27,000 in Manhattan.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2016. Web.