With a little over one week to go before the California primary election, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a rally in Oakland on Monday in an effort to gauge voter support from members of the community and advocate for his platforms, which revolve around universal healthcare and free public college tuition.
Before heading to the rally at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Sanders visited Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland at a talk closed off to the public, speaking to churchgoers about how he intends to provide solutions to income inequality and rising mass incarceration rates. At the rally, where he was introduced by UC Berkeley public policy professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Sanders kicked off his stump speech by referencing the momentum — largely spearheaded by younger voters — driving the campaign during its final stretch.
“We don’t get intimidated easily,” Sanders said at the rally. “And what is extraordinary about this process so far and winning the votes of young people (is) it tells me that our message of social justice, economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice — that is the message for the future of our country.”
Supporters began lining up to attend the rally at about 9 a.m. and continued to form a line that snaked several blocks around Broadway Street as crowds swelled to about 20,000 people by about 5:20 p.m., when Sanders finally took the stage.
After Sanders began his speech, several members of animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere crossed a barricade and attempted to rush the podium, interrupting Sanders before being removed by security. Sanders promptly resumed addressing the crowd afterward.
One crowd member, Mira Hahn, a graphic designer and alumna of UC Berkeley, said she came to support her 12-year-old son, who is an avid follower of Sanders’ platforms.
“We live in a very cynical world, and it’s refreshing to hear him talk about the possibility of dreaming and a better future for the U.S. and the U.S. being a great future for everyone,” Hahn said.
In his speech, Sanders raised concerns about the criminal justice system, poverty among inner city residents and skyrocketing unemployment rates among young people.
“This is why I believe we should invest in our young people, in jobs and education — not in jails and incarceration,” Sanders said.
Charles Robinson, a lawyer and resident of Oakland, said he would have liked to see Sanders provide more details during his campaign regarding how he will fund his proposed education initiatives of free public college tuition, a proposal that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has disagreed with in the past.
According to several voters such as Oakland resident Henry Hitz, Sanders could have positioned himself within the Black community more prominently earlier in the presidential race, while others, such as Precious Green, an operations worker at Impact Hub Oakland, said they believed that he has effectively reached out to the Black population.
“Particularly, as a Black woman, so much of the narrative has been (that) he’s not giving support of Black folk, (but) I think he’s bringing up a lot of issues that would not be discussed but for his role and his participation in the campaign,” Green said.
Sanders will host rallies in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Palo Alto and Davis before voters take to the polls in the statewide primary election June 7.