Last Wednesday afternoon, I met my friend Margaret Hurst at the entrance to Washington Square Park, to scope out where we would draw during the Bernie Sanders rally that was planned for the evening. And what did we find? People were already beginning to line up! So we took our place and waited with the rest of the quickly growing crowd for the cops to open the park gates and let us all in.
The crowd was mixed, made up predominantly of younger college aged supporters with a healthy sprinkling of older hippies. The people waiting in line were passionate – and so polite! Nice to see a rally that is full of peaceful, polite, and passionate people like this one was. No fighting at all – unlike the rallies for someone else who I won’t name…
This group of students in the picture above adopted Margaret, and we enjoyed hearing their spirited discussion of Bernie’s policies. The man in the center of the drawing, wearing the hoodie, was still undecided between Bernie and Hillary, and the other students were making their case to convince him to #feelthebern along with them. As they talked, a Bernie supporter came by and gave me a sticker, and asked for volunteers to canvas the city over the weekend, to get out the vote for the Brooklyn born Senator from Vermont.
As we waited in line, a group of CWA strikers marched by, singing and hollering, and the crowd went wild with their support. Bernie had marched with them earlier in the day, supporting them in their strike against Verizon. Mixed in with the strikers was a man and his young son, carrying a megaphone. They would walk about a block along the park perimeter, and then stop, so the Dad could hold the megaphone up to the little boy’s mouth. The boy would then yell, “Are you feeling the Bern?” and the crowd would cheer! He took his job very seriously.
As five o’clock rolled around, the line that had grown well beyond the park perimeters and into Greenwich Village. We looked back in awe at the growing crowd as we made out way through the metal detectors and into the park to find out spots. Helicopters circled overhead, and the energy of the crowd began to swell.
Once the crowd filled every possible space of Washington Square Park, the “warm-up” act came out and performed: Vampire Weekend. They told us that they’d performed at a few Bernie rallies before, but never with the back up singers that they appeared with tonight – a women’s singing group from Columbia University. After the musical act ended, a line up of speakers came out and spoked passionately for Bernie Sanders and his philosophy.
Actor/director Tim Robbins called him an unusual politician because he has “a moral bottom line.” Other speakers included Rosario Dawson, the leader of the CWA Union and many other politicians and activists. They all talked about Bernie’s ideals, and how they related to him. TheArab-American activist Linda Sarsour talked about Bernie’s support for the Muslim community.
One local city politician, who described himself as “a huuuuge gay,” said that he could always count on Bernie Sanders to be “against all the people that are against me!”
The line up of speakers ended with director Spike Lee, who called out catch-phrases to the crowd: “Are you tired of the okey-doke? Highjinks? Monkeyshine? Skullduggery?” And the crowd shouted back with delight at Mr. Lee, who then invited Bernie and Jane to the podium.
When Bernie Sander got up to the podium, the crowd went crazy, and was definitely “feelin’ the bern!” Cheering and waving of signs went on for quite a while before Bernie could speak. As he spoke, the mountain of media behind us photographed, videotaped, and recorded every word.
Bernie Sanders talked to the crowd about healthcare, paid family leave, tuition free public colleges, and about fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia. He talked about how the civil rights movement had fought segregation in the south, how feminists fought and changed women’s place in society, and how gay marriage was something unthinkable when the Stonewall riots happened, but now is a federal right.
He talked about the Native Americans and their struggle through history, and he talked about women’s fight for equal pay: “They don’t want 79 cents, they want the whole damn dollar!”
Bernie called for a movement to put the country back in the hands of the people, and out of the control of the billionaires and corporations. He urged the crowd to come out, vote, and make a difference.
Bernie Sanders spoke with passion about his ideals, and his vision of what America could be. He spoke about his father immigrating from Poland, and about his own humble roots in Brooklyn, NY. He talked about how his family had a chance in life here in America, and how he wanted to work to give everyone in this country a chance too. He talked about creating a government that “works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors.”
Bernie Sanders talked to the crowd about a political revolution, and the crowd loved imagining the possibility of it all.
Bernie Sanders talked passionately about his dream, the dream of a ‘social democrat’ to bring dignity and pride to all people in the United States.
Too idealistic? I don’t think so. It’s possible, if we want to make it happen.