Senator Bernie Sanders flexed his environmentalist and domestic policy muscles, calling out the Republican party’s presumed nominee, Donald Trump, while campaigning in California Thursday.
Sanders, who is currently locked in a tight primary race with Hillary Clinton in the state, held a rally at California State University, Chico, where he laid out an array of domestic policies aimed at income equality and the rights of minorities and women.
Two lines of nearly 6,000 people snaked around the college for more than four blocks. Originally slated to be held in the 1,337-seat Laxson Auditorium, the rally was moved outside to the lawns outside Laxson, Kendall and Trinity halls.
Time lapse of one of the lines leading from Normal Avenue to West 1st St.
The crowd, packed like sardines against a metal fence separating them from the candidate, climbed trees and fences as they sought a better vantage point.
Sanders denounced Republican governors and senators for stifling voting rights and threatening to cut Social Security. He chastised Republican candidate Donald Trump, who is also campaigning in California, including a rally in Redding Friday. Sanders, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, described Trump as a climate-change denier whose campaign rhetoric is nothing short of ludicrous.
“It is extremely difficult to keep up with ‘the Donald’ because every day he makes a statement that is more absurd than the statement he made the day before,” Sanders said, drawing a long cheer from the literally and figuratively heated crowd.
“See, he came here to California, to tell people of California, that there is no drought. Well, most everybody I’ve spoken to in California believes there is a drought.”
The crowd, some of whom were still waiting to enter when Sanders concluded his speech, sold water bottles, handed out flyers campaigning for the legalization of marijuana and shared cookies as they stood baking in 100-degree weather. Supporters were comprised of all ages, from children carrying signs that said “Cats for Bernie Sanders,” to adults who spoke with fervor of their support for Sanders and their distaste for his chief rival, Hillary Clinton.
Speaking from a wooden lectern on a stage set up that morning, Sanders criticized his primary opponent for her perceived ties to Wall Street, her use of super PACs and her vote for the Iraq War.
“Our job is to take on Wall Street, not their money,” he said. “Their greed and illegal behavior must end.”
Crowd singing “This land is my land” with Sarah Lee Guthrie.
Sanders said the country must end the gender pay gap, invest in public education and increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Does anybody here think that is a radical idea?” Sanders asked the audience, referring to free public college.
“No!” they shouted.
“Forty-five years ago, here in California, in your great University of California system, tuition was virtually free. We could provide virtually free tuition 30-to-40 years ago; we damn well can do it today,” he said.
America is great because of its diversity, Sanders said. He said only his campaign acknowledges and stands up for the rights of Native Americans, a comment that drew cries of “genocide” from the audience, a reference to the deaths of 80-90 percent of the Native American population during colonization. He also chided Trump for his treatment of minorities and his leadership of the “so-called birther movement” that questioned the birthplace of President Barack Obama.
“We do not want a president that insults Mexicans and Latinos,” he said. “We will not have a president who insults Muslims. Who every day insults women. Who insults veterans. And insults the African-American community.”
Clinton, who is leading the race with 268 more pledged delegates than Sanders, could clench the Democratic nomination Tuesday where 806 delegates will be up for grabs. She also has a lofty lead in unpledged “superdelegates,” which brings her within striking distance of the nomination. However, Clinton’s lead in California polls, where 546 delegates will be awarded, has been dimmed recently. A win in California would give his campaign serious momentum, Sanders said.
“We have won 20 state primaries and caucuses. And if there is a large voter turnout on Tuesday in California we are gonna win here and we are gonna win it big …” Sanders said.
“We are going to march into the Democratic Convention with enormous momentum, and I believe we will come marching out with the Democratic nomination.”
Mason Masis is a journalist and student from San Diego who is currently living in Chico, California. Until Spring 2015, he was the production manager of The Southwestern College Sun, an Associated Student Press Pacemaker winning publication, and the Editor-in-Chief of its sister publication el sol Magazine 2015 – also a Pacemaker winner.
Mason’s writing, print layout, multimedia packages and editing have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalist, the Associated Student Press, the Journalism Associate of Community Colleges, San Diego Press Club and more.
He now works as a graphic designer and was recently hired as an intern for the Chico News and Review.