Over 14,000 people congregated in New Haven Sunday night for the speech of Democratic presidential hopeful and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Approximately 7,000 people were allowed inside the New Haven Green, while about 7,000 more observed from beyond the Green’s confines.
Supporters waited up to nine hours to hear Sanders, some showing up at 10 a.m. for the 7 p.m. event. People who showed up after 5 p.m. had a tough time getting in.
Presidential candidates have descended upon Connecticut in the last week and a half, hoping to sway voters before five northeastern states – worth 384 delegates – vote on Tuesday. It was Sanders’ first event in Connecticut, coming on the heels of opponent Hillary Clinton’s second visit to the state Sunday afternoon. Sanders will make a second appearance in Hartford on Monday.
Sanders’ 14,000 swarming supporters triumphed over Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s rally last Friday, the second largest of that week and a half period, which saw around 5,500 people gathered in Hartford.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Clinton has a 51 percent to 42 percent lead over Sanders in Connecticut, with six percent of voters undecided. A win for Clinton in Connecticut would be a boon for her campaign, and a blow to Sanders,’ as he needs every delegate he can get at this point in the race. Clinton has been hammering at the issue of gun control while in Connecticut, a part of policy important for the state and one where Sanders harbors a perceived weakness.
An undocumented Yale student was the first to speak. She took the time to call attention to Senate Bill 147, which would allow undocumented students to have access to institutional financial aid and is making its way through the Connecticut legislature right now.
State Sen. Gary Winfield and a Yale sophomore followed her speech. Michael Stipe, front man for the band R.E.M., introduced Sanders at 7:20 p.m. All gave brief statements on why Sanders should win the nomination.
Sanders was greeted heartily by the New Haven crowd. The Senator gave his standard stump speech about a “rigged” system, featuring income inequality and a business class based on greed, with certain nods to Connecticut mixed in. For instance, Sanders said that New Haven was a microcosm of the U.S. with Yale, an internationally renowned university, a few miles away from “children who are getting totally inadequate education.”
“The Yale endowment is 24 billion, but all over this city and this state we have children that are living in desperate poverty,” Sanders said.
Sanders also offered a quick but pointed criticism of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget cuts to mental health services.
“We need to expand that treatment, not cut it,” Sanders said.
Malloy has endorsed Clinton and spoke at her first Connecticut appearance last week.
Sanders highlighted the progress his campaign has made from down sixty percent in national polls to leading in some. He said he would talk about the differences between himself and Clinton, as well as Trump, “but this campaign is really about much more than the differences that exist between myself and my opponents,” he added.
From there, Sanders dove into his usual long list of grievances with his trademark gravelly voice, touching on everything from a corrupt campaign finance system that should be rid of big money and resembles an “oligarchy,” to pro-life Republicans who wish to infringe upon a woman’s right to choose what they want to do with their bodies.
“We are doing something that’s unusual in contemporary American politics: we are telling the truth,” Sanders said.
The sense of Sanders as an outsider – an image he has cultivated despite the fact he has served in government since 1981 – and his campaign as a collection of like-minded outsiders, was strong. He repeatedly called devotees “brothers and sisters.”
“Brothers and sisters, instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires, we are going to rebuild inner cities throughout this country,” Sanders said.
He let the crowd finish his sentences, like when he said, “enough is enough” regarding income inequality. Whenever Sanders said the word “huge,” or, as he pronounces it, “yuge,” spectators would join in a humorous chorus of “yuuuuge!”
Sanders paused his speech momentarily to call paramedics to the scene of an apparent injury in the crowd, but effortlessly continued his speech immediately after the incident.
Those assembled cheered/jeered loudest when Sanders directly took on his foes, like Republicans and the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart).
“There’s a lot of talk among Republican governors about welfare…I say to the Walton family, get off of welfare, and pay your workers a living wage,” Sanders said early on in his remarks.
Attendees also responded loudly when Sanders made his most incendiary comments about Wall Street.
“I do want the opportunity, to tell these folks to their face that their greed, their recklessness, their illegal behavior, has destroyed the lives of many, many Americans,” Sanders said.
Sanders mentioned that Clinton would be willing to release transcripts of her speeches made to Wall Street bankers if other candidates did the same.
“I’m announcing tonight that I am prepared to release all of the transcripts of all of the speeches I gave on Wall Street – no transcripts, no speeches,” Sanders said to howls of approval.
The Vermont Senator closed out his speech by urging the people on the Green and Connecticut citizens at large to vote, because the higher the turnout, the better chance he has to win.
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.