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A Look Back at One of Bernie Sanders Biggest Rallies

Updated on October 29, 2016
Washington Square Arch
Washington Square Arch | Source

The Start

Underneath the Washington Square Arch, lit up warmly by the various lights, there is an old grandpa type figure giving a speech to a sea of thousands of New Yorkers. All of whom are packed tightly shoulder to shoulder mesmerized by the ideals of his speech, eagerly accepting them and actively pushing them to reality.

Hugging the walls of the various NYU buildings there's hundreds of people queuing up waiting to be let into another line which then leads into the park. “It's the police. The police set this up.” said a Bernie volunteer directing more people into the waiting area, motioning to all the barricades surrounding the park. It seems as if the Sanders camp just wanted people to flood into the park while the NYPD had another idea in mind with all the barricades. The waiting area is actually Laguardia Place between Washington Square South and West 3rd St.

Waiting in line
Waiting in line | Source

Following Directions

To the right and left there are guard rails keeping people in so they don’t spill out onto the sidewalk. According to the Bernie Sanders Washington Square Park Rally event page on Facebook 19,000 people were in attendance.

To the left of the waiting area there is a bit of a commotion on the sidewalk. A young man in Donald Trump mask and another in a Bernie Sanders wig, both in suits, playfully fight it out. The crowd cheers loudly taking out their phones as the imposter Trump falls to the pavement.

On the corner of LaGuardia Place and Washington Square South there are more Bernie volunteers and numerous NYPD officers helping direct the crowds on where to head next. “Alright we got room for 50 more people. 50 more people over here.” a charismatic NYPD officer shouts into a megaphone and points to his right leading the crowd to another line leading to the entrance of the park. There were two entrance lines people could of been split up too, one that leads in front of the stage or one that's behind the central fountain of the park. It’s luck of the draw at this point where people will be placed for the event. “No bags.” The NYPD officer shouts again; meaning no backpacks.

No Bags!

With that the crowd moves welcoming their new line. Others leave with a look of disappointment as they realize they have bags and fall out of line. At the entrance of the park there are multiple metal detectors set up by TSA agents. The agents are screening everyone that enters the park, which is why it's taking so long to enter.

People love Bernie so much they are trying to jump the guard rails for the line that enters the park and risking confrontation with police. One poor girl wasn’t quick enough and was escorted back to the end of line by an officer. The hundreds of onlookers in line and on the sidewalk wouldn’t of said anything, but it didn't help they were all glaring at her.

Over two and a half hours have passed and the entrance to the park is in reach. After waiting all of this time to get in TSA agents begin to take down their metal detectors. The crowd cheers in delight and quickly rushes in since that was the only thing holding everyone up.

The crowd gathers in the middle of the park searching for the best possible view. It is so tightly packed in the middle of the park that it is noticeably hotter from everyone's body heat. Some people begin to leave out of fear they would be too claustrophobic while others jump at the chance for a better view.

The crowd is a large mixture of people from different backgrounds. It is however mostly young adults and college students. Ben Riley, 18, a college student at NYU, was asked why he was here supporting Sanders. “I think there’s a lot of problems with corporate America. Especially healthcare.” When asked about how he felt of about Trump and Hillary he had mixed feelings. “I would have to close my eyes. But I would vote for her. I hate Trump. But I hate Cruz more.”

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Musical Guests

The rally is now set to begin as Vampire Weekend takes the stage and begins an acoustic set. Granted Vampire Weekend isn’t known to get people hyped up with their laid back sound, people are enjoying the performance. They save their most recognizable song for last and finally giving the crowd a chance to dance around a bit and enjoy the catchy music.

Starting the guest speakers off there were some appearances by some famous NYC directors such as Spike Lee and Tim Robbins. They both expressed their reasons for supporting Sanders claiming he is the best man for the job right now and connected on the fact they were all from NYC. As Tim Robbins was about to leave he said “Now is the time of love...Now is the time to dream big.” This quote was met with a courageous cheer from the crowd followed by a “Bernie” chant.

As speaker after speaker continues to take the stage the crowd becomes more anxious waiting for the man himself, Mr.Sanders. The smell of burning marijuana is starting to flow through the air giving a new meaning to “Feel the Bern.” There is also political discussions happening amongst groups in the crowd. When asked why are you here? David Rodriguez, 25, replied “I’m here because Sanders is the only one taking on money in politics. He’s not bought.”

Sanders finally takes the stage to a crescendo of the crowd chanting his name and a roar of applause. Addressing the crowd in a large sweeping wave waiting for the crowd to calm down. “Lot of people here tonight” Bernie says. He immediately begins to list off why his campaign is different. He mentions he's against corporatism, getting veterans off the street, and that he's for radical change. One of Bernie’s major talking points is free college. “50 years ago College was virtually free in New York City.” Driving home that his radical idea is possible because it once was.

Many people in the crowd understand that Sanders has been on forefront of the progressive movement for quite some time. One of those in the crowd is Max Rodrick, 67, a Manhattan resident on medicaid said “He’s been a progressive for the last 50 years. He’s consistent.” Rodrick continues “Hillary was on the board of directors for Walmart. Their plan is to discriminate their employees and have them be on welfare.”

Sanders notes that today is especially different because of the Verizon union workers currently on strike, Communication Workers of America. Sanders stopped at the CWA picket line earlier today and was marching with them in a fight for better pay and to stop Verizon from cutting their healthcare benefits. The CWA strikers are currently right in front of his stage as he's making his speech.

The strikers are actually the loudest part of the crowd and fed up with the way corporate America is operating. Echoing this Sanders says “Verizon is just a poster child to many corporations today.” amidst a crowd of cheers Sanders continues “This campaign is about sending a message to corporate America. You can not have it all.” Sanders then claimed that the CEO of verizon should not being paid almost 20 million dollars a year while verizon workers are fighting for better wages. With that the crowd cheers.

The Overflow outside the park is still packed with people.
The Overflow outside the park is still packed with people. | Source


The time is now 9:00 p.m. and the crowd is listening attentively to Sanders. Cheering when a message he says resonates with the crowd. Towards the back of the park there are still large crowds of hundreds of people hanging out in the street in between the NYU buildings listening to his speech via speakers which are facing outwards at the entrances of the park.

Sanders speech continues as he begins to address that the police are honest, have a hard jobs, but they must be held accountable to their actions. He begins to list of ‘things’ that need to be done. “The truth is we got to demilitarize local police departments.” Adding to this Sanders says police departments should be as diverse as the communities they serve. Finally he states “We must rethink the so called war on drugs.” Finally he states what every college aged person wanted to hear “I believe Marijuana should be removed from the Federal Controlled Substance Act.” This was met with a thunderous roar from the young crowd.

Toward the end of Sanders speech he address how he’s been consistently ridiculed and criticized for holding the belief that the United States should have universal healthcare. “In my view healthcare is a right of all people. Not a privilege.” He continues on that those in the crowd are paying too much for their co-pays for how little insurance they receive. “Everyone of us is ripped off everyday by the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Who charge us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.” As a result of all of this Sanders says the people of the United States end up paying for more per capita for healthcare than any other country.

Sanders wrapping up the rally begins asking questions on why aren’t we doing more as a nation. “Why should we have more people in jail than any other country? Why aren’t we doing more to combat a crippling infrastructure...? Why are we allowing billionaires to buy elections through a corrupt campaign finance system.” He continues that the establishment will not address these issues because they are apart of it. “The only way we address these questions is when we elect a government that represents us.” Sanders delivers this statement to probably the loudest cheer of the night.

Ending the speech Sanders says “I think we have a surprise for the establishment.” Addressing the crowd with a thank you and a warm goodbye. Sanders then remains at the podium taking in the thousands of New Yorkers as they cheer wildly as he waves. His wife meets him out on the stage, and with one last wave from both of them they turn and walk down the stage as the crowd continues to cheer.

Washington Square Park


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    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      2 years ago from LA

      This article is very insightful and interesting. I love the objective viewpoint. Rock on, Matt!


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