By Madina Toure
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) stressed his strong New York roots and expressed confidence about the strength of his campaign at a rally in Long Island City last weekend.
Speaking before supporters from the five boroughs at LaGuardia Community College’s Performing Arts Center at 31-10 Thomson Ave. on April 9, Sanders joked that Queens residents “see Brooklyn as a foreign nation” but stressed his personal connection to the city.
“I think we have a personal advantage here,” Sanders said. “I was born and raised in Brooklyn.”
He claimed to lead Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, citing his edge as a sign of his campaign’s uniqueness.
“We are making a whole lot of progress and I think the reason is that we’re doing something pretty unusual in a campaign,” he said. “No. 1 we are telling the American people the truth and No. 2, as part of the truth, we are raising issues that are not always pleasant but have to be dealt with.”
He contended Clinton’s supporters are becoming anxious because he has won seven out of the last eight Democratic primaries and was ahead in Wyoming. He has since won the Wyoming caucus.
“What has been happening in this campaign is that we began, according to the media and the experts, as a fringe candidacy and it had a lot to do with the views we were bringing forth and a lot of experts said, ‘Who in America would agree with Bernie Sanders that we need a political revolution?’” he said. “Well, it turned out that many millions of people actually did agree with us.”
Actor Kal Penn introduced Sanders, praising the senator for being the only candidate who has refused to accept money from lobbyists. “I’m excited because he’s been pushing hard his whole life for us and his candidacy, I think, allows us to build on the last eight years of progress and I think that’s fantastic,” Penn said.
Sanders will be holding another rally at Hunter’s Point South Park on April 18 at 5 p.m. featuring actors Danny Glover and Fisher Stevens as special guests.
Supporters chanted “We love you Bernie!” as he left the venue following the rally, holding up signs with the candidate’s name.
Brooklyn resident Nick Farrow, 45, a graphic artist from England, designs Bernie Sanders T-shirts.
He said about 200 people who were not able to get into the auditorium were sent to an overspill room. But they were surprised when Sanders walked in and gave them a shortened version of his speech.
“So we’re standing in this really small room with about 200 people and who walks out? Bernie Sanders, to talk to us to say, ‘Listen, I apologize that we couldn’t get you all in,” Farrow said. “They put you in this room, but I’m going to speak to you guys first and do you a condensed speech, which is a really cool thing to do.”
Brooklyn resident Zeshawn Ali, 25, and his brother, Manhattan resident, Aman Ali, 31, who are Muslim, said they are impressed with the candidate’s ability to resonate with New Yorkers and the Muslim community.
“Not only has he reached to Muslims but (he) takes the time to listen,” Aman Ali said.
The candidate also spoke about campaign finance reform, minimum wage, how he plans to come up with funding for his proposal for free college tuition and the need for longer maternity leave, among other issues.
He criticized the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.
“Six years ago, (the) United States Supreme Court made one of the worst decisions in the history of this country in Citizens United and what they said is that, ‘OK billionaires, you already own much of the nation, now we’re going to give you the opportunity to buy the United States government and that is what they are trying to do as we speak,” he said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour