The Bronx was Bernin’ Thursday as an estimated 15,000 people flocked to St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven to rally around the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during his first major rally in the New York.
The air was electric and had the feel of a summer concert as throngs of people filled the park and the surrounding streets to listen to Sanders as he boasted about his Brooklyn roots and his immigrant parents — and shared his populist message.
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In a surprise move, before his main speech, Sanders addressed a crowd of about 2,000 who were waiting outside the official event area.
“It looks like the South Bronx is prepared to tell the billionaire class that they cannot have it all,” Sanders greeted the attendees. “It looks like the South Bronx wants to create an economy that works for all of us not just the 1%.”
Inside, after being introduced by Grammy-winner Residente, Sanders continued with his “man of the people” message that has been the heart of his campaign’s unlikely rise.
“This campaign is about creating a political revolution,” Sanders told the massive gathering. “You are the heart and soul of this revolution.”
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The Vermont Senator drew huge cheers from the predominantly young crowd as he promised that, if elected president, he would invest in education, infrastructure and healthcare.
“Real change takes place when millions of people look around them and say the status quo is unacceptable,” Sanders said. “Where we are right now is a pivotal point in our country’s history.”
Sanders’ Brooklyn-ese accent and his “us vs. them” attitude resonated with the South Bronx crowd as he promised to take on Wall Street, reform the criminal justice system and battered his rival Dem Hillary Clinton for her ties to big business.
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“He identifies with poor people and he’s for the minority,” said retired cabbie Jesus Belen, 65. “And it’s in New York that the minority is the majority. Bernie won the last three states, he’s in the fight and I’m here with him.”
Others agreed, giving the Brooklyn-born politician high marks.
“Bernie Sanders is for us, he’s not trying to hand it all to the big banks,” said Nicole Revis, 32, a correction officer from the Bronx. “We have people out here who kill themselves to barely put food on the table. Bernie represents us.”
Linag Yi, 26, traveled from Chinatown to hear Sanders speak.
“Bernie has finally come to New York and we’re ready for him, we’re all ready,” Yi said. “He’s authentic. Bernie doesn’t flip flop like Hillary does. He’s about social justice, and, number one, it’s about trust.”
Sanders also received a star-studded welcome in the borough from the likes of Spike Lee and Rosario Dawson.
The self-proclaimed Democratic socialist popularity among young voters was evident by the turnout in the Bronx, but he will have to widen his appeal to remain relevant in the race to the White house.
Sanders needs to win a majority of New York’s 291 delegates to keep up the possibility of winning the party’s nomination within reach.
The New York primary is April 19.
“If we win in New York we are going to make it to the White House,” Sanders said.
With Chris Sommerfeldt
- bernie sanders ,
- 2016 election ,
- mott haven ,
- south bronx ,
- hillary clinton ,
- spike lee ,
- rosario dawson