US Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Barbara Lee encourage voting at Berkeley rally

Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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Campaigning alongside U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to Bay Area residents about the current political climate and the importance of voting during a “Get Out the Vote” rally at the Berkeley Community Theater on Saturday.

With about 2,500 people present, Lee — who is running for re-election against Laura Wells — and Sanders both addressed their political platforms, urging the community to vote in the upcoming midterm election Nov. 6.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín welcomed the crowd and introduced the various speakers present, such as Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Ortega-Toro and Cal Berkeley Democrats President Varsha Sarveshwar.

“This is a national movement for progressive change. … With this choice comes a responsibility,” Arreguín said in his speech on voting and electing candidates with progressive agendas.

All the speakers echoed the idea of making a change through voting. Topics addressed during the rally included corporate greed, income inequality, single-payer health care, free education and voter turnout.

Sarveshwar focused on college affordability and the lack of aid for American youths. She said young people face increasing costs amid lower incomes across the country.

On a somber note, both Lee and Sanders addressed the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left at least 11 people dead Saturday morning. They called for stronger gun control laws and told the attending crowd to stand up against gun violence.

“We have got to end that hatred, that bigotry, which is sweeping this country,” Sanders said.

The 2016 presidential election was also referenced throughout the rally. Sanders spent a substantial part of his speech criticizing President Donald Trump and the presence of corporate money in politics.

Sanders stated that while he has many differences with Trump, his main criticism of the president is the division he inspires in the country.

Kacey Carpenter, a volunteer at Our Revolution, expressed that he felt motivated by the rally and its turnout. According to Carpenter, the rally was planned on short notice, with volunteers texting about 50,000 people to join in on the event.

“The community is so focused on helping people understand on how to vote,” Carpenter said. “People (at the event) were so knowledgeable, and often in midterm elections people don’t pay attention.”

Sanders concluded the event with a final call to action to vote in the midterm election.

Many community members remained after the event to canvas for Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is running against Buffy Wicks for the Assembly District 15 seat.

Alameda High School student Olivia Lebo-Planas said she felt inspired by the rally.

“I think it’s easy to lose faith in the political system — so seeing him and having that kind of renewed hope, it makes me more hopeful about the midterm elections.”

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.