New Yorkers turned out in droves to support Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally in the Bronx on Thursday.
The New York Times reported that about 18,500 supporters turned out for the rally at St. Mary’s Park. An all-star lineup included actress Rosario Dawson, singer Residente and filmmaker Spike Lee, who spoke before the candidate hit the stage.
“Bernie has to win New York City, Bernie has to win Nueva York,” Lee told the crowd.
Lee and Dawson were especially critical of Sanders’ rival, Hillary Clinton, who campaigned at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Wednesday.
Sanders’ speech was stuffed with the populist ideas and policy reforms he has advocated throughout his campaign, as well as during his years in office as a U.S. senator, as he spoke about issues including health care, education and immigration.
“We need millions of people to stand up and make a political revolution,” the Vermont senator said. “If we win New York, we are going to make it to the White House.”
The attendees hailed from all over New York and the five boroughs, and many of them said they had their first experience in the Bronx that day. Getting to St. Mary’s Park required a lengthy walk from the nearest subway stations, giving them a taste of a neighborhood they would not normally visit, they said.
“We noted when getting off the subway the staggering difference between the community here and Brooklyn,” said Jordan Hurd, a 29-year-old fashion administrator from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “It diversified his message and spread it to people that need to hear it most.”
Many South Bronx residents were pleasantly surprised by Sander’s appearance in their community, one that is often skipped along campaign trails. “For him to come out to the Bronx, most people wouldn’t even step foot here,” said Mike Santos, 23, a computer science student who lives in the area. “He got us all hopeful.”
Many of Sanders’ supporters pointed out his populist appeal and his calls for political and economic reforms.
“To actually do anything, to change things, you’ve got to put the pavement under your feet and get on the street,” said Shawn Lynch, 32, a tour guide from Woodside, Queens. “The things that supported the middle class have eroded away. The statistics about everything say growth, but people feel less secure.”
Christopher Sears, 26, an actor from Harlem, said he attended the rally to learn more about Sanders and his platform.
“I want to find out who he is. I feel that by coming out … and hearing him speak, I’ll learn what he stands for,” Sears said. “People are turning to Clinton because she represents what’s familiar, and I understand that, but we could have a great political future with Bernie.”