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Bernie Sanders rally in Washington Square Park draws supporters of all ages

Bernie Sanders speaks to an estimated 27,000 people

Bernie Sanders speaks to an estimated 27,000 people at a rally in Washington Square Park on April 13, 2016. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Thousands of people packed into Washington Square Park Wednesday evening to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak. 

And when he did, the Vermont senator drew loud cheers from the crowd with his message of unification.

"Understanding that when we stand together, black and white and Latino and Native American, when we do not allow the Donald Trumps of the world to divide us up, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” Sanders said during a speech that lasted about an hour.

Sanders' campaign, tweeting from his official handle, estimated the crowd at 27,000.

Verizon strikers, who were visited by Sanders in Brooklyn earlier Wednesday, lined the front of the stage, which was positioned under the arch on the north side of the park. Sanders had words for them that resonated with many supporters in attendance.

"They are standing up to a greedy corporation that wants to cut their healthcare benefits, send decent-paying jobs abroad and then provide $20 million a year to their CEO," Sanders said, as audience members yelled a collective "boo!" at the idea. "And Verizon is just the poster child for what so many of our corporations are doing today. And this campaign is sending a message to corporate America: 'You cannot have it all!'"

Sanders received cheers throughout the rally when addressing policy points including equal pay and increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour, expanding social security, improving the criminal justice system and providing free higher education.

And the NYC-born Sanders noted that when he was growing up in Brooklyn, the American Dream was alive and well.  "We will not allow that American Dream to die," he said.

Sanders ended his speech with an appeal to the voters in the crowd thinking of heading to the polls on April 19. 

“When I look out at the thousands of people who are here tonight … I think we’ve got a surprise for the establishment. I think that if we have a large voter turnout on Tuesday, we’re gonna win this thing.”

Indie-rock band Vampire Weekend kicked off the festivities shortly after 7 p.m., warming up the crowd for a series of speakers that included actress Rosario Dawson and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Dawson urged New Yorkers to vote for Sanders in the upcoming primary.

"We have an opportunity with our vote this coming Tuesday to make sure we recognize the invisible," Dawson said, referring to those groups she feels are overlooked by other candidates. 

Dawson spoke at a Sanders rally in the Bronx on March 31, as did Lee, who followed her at the Washington Square Park event.

"We got to show up and vote," Lee said. "Status quo gotta go."

The crowd spilled beyond the parameters of the park, with thousands showing up hours before the candidate spoke. Some held signs, sported Sanders T-shirts or held cutouts of the senator's face, and a few supporters clutched a large rendering of Sanders' glasses and eyebrows.

Sanders still trails behind his opponent Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, but he has seen tens of thousands of supporters at his recent rallies in New York City. 

Many of the attendees at Washington Square Park had no doubts about whom they are voting for in the New York primary. 

Dimitri Cilione, 62, said he took the day off and drove two hours from Orange County in upstate New York to attend the rally.  

"I've been waiting for about 30 years or so for this kind of dialogue," Cilione said, speaking long before his candidate took the stage and referring to Sanders' strong stances on the economy and income inequality.

"The country and the world is very much out of balance," he added. 

Another supporter, Mathania Toussaint, 18, said she supports Sanders over Clinton because Clinton has been known to change her position too often. 

"I trust him," she said of Sanders. 

Toussaint and her friend, 18-year-old Luxurie Allsop, both from Brooklyn, agreed that Sanders is the most trustworthy candidate. 

"Obviously Trump is just out of the question," Allsop said. 


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