By Susan Laume:
With Super Tuesday’s critical primary vote looming, Bernie Sanders drew an overflow audience in Springfield on Saturday, Feb. 29, as he called for a “political revolution” to create “a government of love and compassion, not greed and lies.”
Standing in parallel lines, cheering volunteers waved Bernie signs as participants entered and gathered near the stage on the St. James Sports Complex arena floor. With 6,500 pre-registrants, 600 volunteers, a large international press corp, and likely many more on hand by the 4 pm start time, the arena was jammed from wall to wall with the crowd.
Taking the stage, Sanders challenged those who called his ideas radical, saying, “It’s time to redefine what’s radical.” He ticked off radical problems that he would tackle as president, including:
- a half million people sleeping on the streets
- inability of many to afford college or trade school
- broken health care system– no guarantee of health care, the world’s highest prices for prescription drugs, many without health insurance, or bankrupted over medical bills, and outrageous health care industry profits
He also spoke of climate change as a global existential issue and pledged to “listen to science and scientists”, and to talk to other countries about pooling resources to fight that “common enemy”. With chants of “Green New Deal “ from the crowd, he proposed creation of up to 20 million jobs in the process of transferring from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.
Other pronounced crowd reaction came as he spoke of his positions for reforming the criminal justice system, decriminalizing marijuana, transforming the immigration system, and assuring women’s reproductive rights. He outlined “sweeping gun legislation”, to include universal background checks, preventing gun ownership to those with violent pasts, ending the gun show loophole, and ending the sale and distribution of assault style weapons. Many of these gun measures are poised to pass the Virginia General Assembly now in session — with the exception of a ban on assault weapons, a measure which passed in the House, but did not find traction in the Senate.
In his closing, Sanders asked not only “humbly for your support, but help us make the political revolution. Bring more people into the political process. … Tell your friends tired of politics who moan and groan… ‘stop complaining and get active’.” He described a “not me, us” movement; a chant taken up by the crowd; a movement of “people who are willing to stand up and fight for change…. create a government of love and compassion not greed and lies. This country belongs to all of us not just the few.”
Well organized, well staffed, and ADA inclusive, the event featured music, and a religious leader, and union speakers. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D- Minn.), campaigning for Sanders, spoke to dispel the notion that Sanders is “too radical” to to defeat Pres. Donald Trump in some states in November, citing recent polls in battle ground states. State Del. Lee Carter (D-50) representing Manassas and part of Prince William county, also spoke. Carter, a Democratic Socialist, first won election in 2018, defeating the incumbent Republican House majority whip. Sanders campaigned with Carter before Carter’s 2019 re-election.
The Springfield location was not the originally planned location. The event was moved to the Springfield venue in response to the need for a larger space based on the advance response for attendance. Some still could not gain entry.
The crowd included many dedicated Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. supporters, and some who came to hear Sanders in order to decide their candidate vote.
First in line at 8:30 am were a group of ten New York University students from various home towns across the country. Friends from Springfield, Andy Zavale and Andy Garcia, described Sanders as “the only candidate for the working class.” Michael Tilahun also of Springfield was there to decide between Pete Buttigeig and Sanders. Tabbitha and Kristin Niemann, of Fairfax, had their minds made up to support Sanders, and Jonathan Heinze, of Fairfax, a volunteer at the event, has supported Sanders since 2016.
Photos by Susan Laume
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