Hillary Clinton speaks to crowd at campaign rally in Oakland

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Suhauna Hussain/Staff

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Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign made its way to an Oakland elementary school gymnasium Friday, where Clinton spoke at a rally about topics ranging from the gender pay gap to college tuition.

The rally took place at La Escuelita Elementary School in Oakland, which was filled to capacity with Bay Area residents, including several UC Berkeley students, who came to hear Clinton’s platforms and demonstrate their support.

The rally was an opportunity for undecided voters to see what Clinton has to say, said Maureen Ochi Sides, a campus freshman and member of Cal Berkeley Democrats.

“I think it’s just really cool to see the candidates in person,” said campus freshman and outgoing information technology director of Cal Berkeley Democrats, Courtney Brousseau — who had attended Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaign rallies within the past year. “Seeing them both, I think gave me a good understanding … (and) gave me a better grasp of who I was supporting.”

In her speech, Clinton advocated upholding the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — and revoking special protections held by gun sellers. Additionally, she suggested bolstering mental health treatment facilities and personnel.

“We’ve got to treat mental health the same as we treat all health problems,” Clinton said at the rally.

For some members of the crowd, the rally did not appear representative of the Oakland community’s diversity. Oakland resident Frank Rodriguez was particularly critical of the press.

“The entire thing is a photo-op,” Rodriguez said. “(Clinton) is so out of touch with my community.”

Progressive youth may favor Sanders over Clinton because Clinton seems more old-fashioned in comparison, according to Lawrence Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies. Clinton does, however, know how to reach out to a wide range of people, including youths, in part thanks to her advisers, Rosenthal noted.

At the rally, Clinton also condemned Republican candidate Donald Trump’s approach to immigration, plans to defund Planned Parenthood and impolitic approach to discussing nuclear deals with foreign leaders.

Several political figures made appearances at the event in order to introduce Clinton — including California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf; and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California.

Campus junior Melissa Marquette, who was also present at the rally, said she favored Clinton over other candidates because of Clinton’s stance on reproductive rights and equal pay for all genders and the symbolism of having a woman heading the White House.

“Hillary’s fighting for all of us,” said James Chang, elected commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. “I think she’s trying to bring Americans together … (and to) make America affordable for everybody.”

Besides Clinton supporters, Sanders supporters were also present, some intermittently countering cheers for Clinton with chants for Sanders.

Although Clinton disagreed with Sanders’ demand for free universal college education, she proposed “debt-free tuition” and contingency repayment programs, in which a set portion of graduates’ paychecks would go to paying for their tuition.

Though she prefers Sanders, Whitney Dwyer, Oakland resident and teacher at the adjacent MetWest High School, came to the event because she wanted to hear what Clinton had to say and to witness a historical moment in Oakland.

Contact Anna Dell’Amico at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adellamico_dc.