Thousands of impassioned supporters packed into Washington Square Park Monday night to hear a speech from Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who called on New York City history as she laid out a plan for dismantling corruption in Washington.
After taking the stage to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and uproarious cheers, Warren recalled a vital piece of local history that informs her current political trajectory — how after the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which took place just steps from where Warren spoke under the Washington Square arch, the efforts of local activists and the persistence of workers’ rights advocate Frances Perkins brought about changes to fire safety and labor laws.
That story is an example of how people working together can bring about “big structural change,” said Warren — the kind of change she wants to bring to the country.
“The story of the Triangle Factory fire is a story about power — a story about what happens when the rich and the powerful take control of government and use it to increase their own profits while they stick it to working people,” said Warren. “But what happened in the aftermath of the fire is a different story about power — a story about our power, a story about what’s possible when we fight together as one.”
Warren tied the activism of more than a century ago to what she called “the biggest plan to end corruption since Watergate,” which her campaign had released the morning of the rally. She detailed how, if she becomes president, she will “end lobbying as we know it,” root out conflicts of interest in government by banning federal elected officials from buying stocks or owning businesses on the side, and require federal candidates and officials to release their tax returns.
The crowd, which Warren’s campaign said exceeded 20,000 people, touted “I’m a Warren Democrat” signs and frequently cheered and chanted the candidate’s name. Many in attendance wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Warren has a plan for that.”
“I know what’s broken, I’ve got a plan to fix it, and that’s why I’m running for president of the United States,” Warren said at one point, eliciting cheers and chants.
The crowd also occasionally broke into chants of “Two Cents,” a reference to Warren’s plan to put a 2% tax on the nation’s extraordinary wealthy to help fund universal child care and health care.
Supporters, many of whom lined up after the rally for a chance to take a selfie with the senator, said Warren’s penchant for laying out precise plans is part of what makes her such an intriguing candidate.
“She encompasses my ideals, but she has a way of explaining it so that it can translate both to me on one side of the aisle and to people on the right or in the center, who can hear her message and appreciate it for how it affects them,” said Chinendum Enyinna, 36, who made the commute from Yonkers to hear Warren speak.
This is what he believes sets her apart from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports many of the same policies as Warren.
“She’s a better communicator, and she has details of her plan, which you can see — the numbers and how things are going to work out,” Enyinna said.
Warren’s ability to draw such a large and energetic crowd doesn’t hurt either, one supporter said.
“I’m really excited that she also has the ability to energize crowds with little catchphrases and things like that,” said Josh Prol, 34, of Crown Heights after the rally. “I’m encouraged.”
Warren, one of 20 candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination, launched her campaign at the end of 2018. In recent 2020 polls, she has ranked among the top three contenders, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and behind or ahead of Sanders.
The speech came days after the third presidential debate, when Warren joined nine other qualifying candidates on stage at Texas Southern University on Sept. 12.
With Nicole Brown