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Students attend Bernie Sanders rally

Students attend Bernie Sanders rally

By Hannah Schuster and Charlotte Aaron

Section: News

October 9, 2015

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) addressed a crowd of over 20,000 at a rally in Boston where he touched on key liberal issues including education, income inequality and mass incarceration. Sanders’ speech focused on social issues, though he also discussed Wall Street, campaign finance, energy and climate change.

Sanders spoke at the Boston Convention Center on Saturday, Oct. 3. He called for a “political revolution,” to improve a government he said many have lost faith in and a government Sanders believes caters to the “billionaire class.”

“I do not represent the agenda of the billionaire class or corporate America, and I don’t want their money,” said Sanders of his opposition to Super PACs.

Intent on running a “people’s campaign,” Sanders announced 650,000 people have made campaign donations averaging $30. The third quarter for fundraising ended on Sept. 30, and Sanders has raised $26 million, close behind Hillary Clinton with around $28 million, according to the Boston Globe and other major news organizations.

Sanders encouraged voter turnout, citing the nation’s low voter turnout rates. He also asked his supporters to come together and help him “the day after” the election.

“When nobody votes, Republicans win,” said Sanders, “When people demand that the United States start representing all of us and not just a handful of billionaires … we win.”

Income inequality is a major point for Sanders’ campaign. At the rally he stated the top tenth of one percent controls 90 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the Walton family, owners of Walmart, control more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. Politifact confirmed this after Sanders tweeted the statistic in 2012.

Sanders said American workers are becoming more productive yet admonished the national minimum wage of $7.25 as a “starvation wage.” He proposes raising the amount to a $15 living wage. “Wages in America are just too damn low,” said Sanders.

He also took time to criticize Republican presidential candidates, focusing on these opponents rather than Clinton, his primary Democratic challenger. He rebuked Republicans who champion “family values” but do not support same-sex marriage, paid family leave for new parents or a woman’s right to choose.

Sanders also called Republicans’ rejection of global warming an “international embarrassment.” He praised sustainable energy and criticized the Keystone Pipeline.

Policy regarding unemployment, incarceration and education were points of focus during the rally as well. “Invest in jobs and education, not in jails and incarceration,” said Sanders.

“If anyone in this room thinks there isn’t a connection between the enormously high rate of youth unemployment and the fact that we have more people in jail than any other country, you would be mistaken,” he said.

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sanders spoke about the need to end institutional racism in our country. “When a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable,” said Sanders. He spoke about police brutality and the 2.2 million people in American prisons, citing that prisoners are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

“Our job is to make sure that non-violent offenders don’t get locked up … our job is to demilitarize police departments … our job is to make police departments look like the communities they serve,” said Sanders.

He also talked about the recent Oregon shooting that left nine dead, calling for improved background checks on gun purchases and access to mental health care, with hopes that someday these shootings will be less prevalent.

The Citizens United court decision of 2010 was what Sanders labeled the most important issue. “What they [the Supreme Court] said to the wealthiest people is, ‘Well, you already own much of our economy, we are now going to give you the opportunity to buy the United States government,’ and that is precisely what they are trying to do right now,” said Sanders.

“Today, the American political system has been totally corrupted, and the foundations of American democracy are being undermined,” he said.

Sanders’ emphasis on correcting the United States corrupt political system and his consistent support for social policy change appealed to his supporters at the Boston rally, thousands of whom of whom overflowed out of the packed Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

His pitch to make public universities free and reduce interest rates on student loans prompted cheers from the numerous supporters at the rally, many of whom were college students. The grassroots organization College Students for Bernie has chapters at over 100 colleges, including Brandeis.

Emily Kalver ’18, a Brandeis student who attended the event, said the crowd’s “energy was contagious,” noting a high wave of excitement when Sanders spoke about college tuition and youth unemployment.

Although she has not been politically active in the past, Kalver plans on voting for Sanders next year. His positions on “income inequality, women’s reproductive health and reform of the criminal justice system” appeal to Kalver.

Anthony “Tres” Fimmano ’18, another Brandeis attendee, was able to secure a spot in front of the crowd and close to Sanders’ platform. Fimmano described Sanders’ speech as “overwhelming,” as he and the crowd responded energetically to almost everything Sanders said.

Initially, Fimmano knew he supported Sanders’ ideas, but was unsure if he was going to vote for Sanders over other candidates. “But on Saturday when I saw him speak and realized how much he cares and how much support he has, I realized I would be doing this country a disservice by not supporting him,” Fimmano said.

Kalver and Fimmano are among many Brandeis students who support Sanders. Brandeis for Bernie, an on-campus group, has 161 likes on its facebook page and helped promote the Boston rally. The club has already hosted a kickoff event and will co-host the Democratic debate watch party with Brandeis Democrats on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Lexi Ouellette ’18, a social media coordinator for the national organization College Students for Bernie and an organizer for Brandeis for Bernie, has been very active in Sanders campaign.

Ouellette spoke at Sanders’ rally in Springfield, Massachusetts hours before the Boston rally. She spoke about being a student in the U.S. and the debt caused by “failures of the system currently in place.”

“I believe that the current system focused too much on relieving initial costs so that people can attend college, but doesn’t take into account the ways that debt upon graduating is not only debilitating, but might discourage people from pursuing college regardless,” said Ouellette.

The “grassroots organization and excitement” that Sanders’ campaign has inspired enthuses Ouellette who feels “people actively participating in our democracy is one of the ways that we can draw attention to disparities in our current government and continue to advocate for structural changes.”

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