The Bern was on fire in Washington Square Park last night

‘Real change occurs from the bottom on up’

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Thousands of Americans, from New Yorkers to Floridians, from college students to bankers, packed into Washington Square Park on Wednesday evening for Bernie Sander’s rally, in anticipation of the state primary on Tuesday.

The rally began with a performance by Vampire Weekend and riveting opening statements by several speakers including Rosario Dawson and Spike Lee, who vocalized his and the crowd’s frustration at “being jerked around, and hijinks-ed” and declared that “the status quo, gotta go.”

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Credit: Jill Grossman

Bernie Sanders took the stage to thunderous applause, and his speech was constantly interrupted by chants and enthusiastic applause. “Bernie has been on the right side of history at every junction,” said high school senior Jake Finkelstein. “From the march on Washington to LGBTQ rights, for every historical screw up Bernie was there. He’s a progressive maverick who is consistent and steadfast in what he believes in.”

He first spoke about his campaign, “It’s not about creating a president, it’s about creating a political revolution. We are doing something unusual in American politics. We are telling the truth,” and then attacked his opponents, the Republican party, in stating, “Democracy to me is one person, one vote, not billionaires buying elections. We do not accept Republican governors suppressing the vote, and making it harder for poor people, or people of color, to vote.”

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Credit: Jill Grossman

Sanders detailed his plan to repair the broken American infrastructure, from dams and railroads, to metros and airports, through $1 trillion spent over a span of 5 years, creating 13 million jobs for working Americans, and paid for by imposing a speculation tax on Wall Street. “This campaign is listening to people whose voices are not often heard, we are listening to our brothers and sisters in the African-American community and they are asking, how can it be that we have trillions of dollars to spend on a war in Iraq, but we don’t have the money to rebuild the crumbling inner cities of America?”

“I have been in inner cities where there are no grocery stores or bank branches, where unemployment is off the charts, and the schools are inadequate. So I say, that instead of rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq or Afghanistan, we’re going to rebuild the inner cities of America.”

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Credit: Jill Grossman

Senator Sanders next spoke about his stance on immigration, “This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the Latino community. There are 11 million undocumented people in this country. Many of them are living in fear, and many of them are living in the shadows. I believe that this country must move forward toward comprehensive immigration reform, and a path towards citizenship.”

The Senator congratulated the Communications Workers of America union for backing the recent strike by thousands of Verizon workers for inadequate comprises to the workers’ benefits demands, “Tonight I want to take my hat off to the CWA. They are standing up to a greedy corporation that wants to cut their health care benefit, send decent paying jobs abroad, and then provide $20 million a year to their CEO. Verizon is just a poster child for what so many of our corporations are doing today, and this campaign is sending a message to corporate America: you cannot have it all.”

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Credit: Jill Grossman

Sanders highlighted the differences between opponent Hillary Clinton and himself, attacking the Senator for her past actions regarding the war in Iraq. “I not only voted against that war, I helped lead the opposition to that war. Secretary Clinton, then in the Senate, voted for that war. And then a few months ago in a debate that we had, she mentioned with pride that she was praised for her work by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who in my view was one of the most destructive Secretaries of State in the history of this country, and I surely would not welcome his praise.”

He also contrasted their stances on the clean water issue, adding “I believe it is insane to be poisoning the water in our country, and in countries throughout the world, through fracking.”

Sanders demanded that America “rethink the so-called ‘war on drugs’” by removing marijuana from its classification as a Federal Controlled Substance so that possession of the drug would no longer be charged as a federal crime, and states can decide its legality within their borders.

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Senator Sanders closed his speech by addressing college students, who made up a significant amount of the rally’s attendees, “We should be rewarding people who get the education they need, not punishing them. 1st through 12th grade public education is not good enough, we must make public colleges and universities tuition free.”

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has sparked the flames of activism in the hearts of millions of Americans. He has managed to win seven out of the eight most recent caucuses and primaries and raise close to $140M in individual donations, surpassing Obama in 2008. The Clinton might be currently leading, but she is undoubtedly feeling pressured by Sanders’ momentum. Wednesday’s rally worked further to win over New York’s allegiance, and for Sanders supporters, it certainly stirred excitement for the upcoming primary.

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The New York Daily News Editorial Board recently endorsed Hillary Clinton. Their most recent editorial, “Why we chose Hil over Bernie,” calls the VT-senator “a fantasist who’s at passionate war with reality,” and rips into his plans to “break up the banks” and provide free healthcare and college to all. We took to WSP to hear what some of the thousands of Sanders supports made of this endorsement.

“The Daily News does not speak for me or New York,” said Devin Wilson who was sporting a fedora and a Bernie tee. “The people here today speak for New York.”

“It’s only fitting that the trashiest tabloid in New York picks the trashiest candidate to endorse,” said Steven De Gracia.

“The ideas that Bernie has been talking about aren’t anything new,” said Columbia student Grace Nkem. “Leave it to the U.S. to call these plans ‘radical’ while they’ve been enacted in many other parts of the world.”

“How is it that we fund multimillion dollar wars without batting an eye, yet we ask questions about basic needs?” said Salvatore Sassano and Stephen Vermilyea, who were visiting from Connecticut. “When we stand together there’s nothing we can’t achieve; Bernie might be bringing forth all of these progressive ideas, but we need to work together to make them reality.”

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