‘Bernie’s back’ rally brought out 20,000 people to Queensbridge Park

Photos by Todd Maisel

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination received a big boost on Saturday in Long Island City, where Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed him before a crowd of more than 20,000 people at Queensbridge Park.

Official crowd estimates were not available, but some police commanders said the gathering “exceeded expectations.”

This was Sanders’ comeback rally after suffering a heart last month. Despite his health setback, the Vermont senator was as fiery as ever on a myriad of issues from Medicare for all, taxing the rich, free college tuition and supporting’ Ocasio-Cortez environmental plan known as the “Green New Deal.”

“To put it bluntly, I am back, I am more than ready to assume to job of president of the United States,” Sanders boomed to a raucous mass of poster waving supporters.

Ocasio-Cortez previously worked as a volunteer for the Sanders campaign in 2016. She applauded his consistency on social issues that, she said, impacts her constituents and “most of America.” She called the endorsement “a moment of clarity.”

The Bronx/Queens congresswoman ticked off a litany of issues faced by her constituents and people across America, much of which affected her family growing up in New York City. She also spoke about what she called were “racist policies of underfunding of NYCHA housing.” The park is across the street from the Queensbridge Houses, a NYCHA complex.

“Public housing is under funded by $30 billion and that is no accident – an outcome of a system that devalues the poor and working people and prioritizes buildings like those buildings over there (pointed to Manhattan skyline),” she said.

The huge crowd at Queensbridge Park

Senator Sanders in turn promised a “multi-billion” revitalization and repair program if elected that would correct some of the lack of funding provided by the federal government.

Filmmaker/activist Michael Moore and San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz — a frequent foil of President Trump in their war of words over assistance for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 — also appeared at the rally to endorse Sanders.

At the end of his speech, Sanders was joined on the stage by members of his family, including his wife Dr. Jane Sanders and several grandchildren.

Most of the crowd vowed to enthusiastically support him in the primaries.

“We really need Bernie, and we obviously have to get Trump out,” said Melissa Tolve of Harlem, who sat on the ground with her friend, Andrew Gayle. “I trust him more than anyone else that’s running and he’s been consistent. His plan makes the most sense – direct more money to community and health care.”

“I’m a teacher so I think that Bernie’s plan if I want to stop being a teacher, I could get health care,” said Juliana Ritter, a teacher from Bedford Stuyvesant. “I think Bernie’s ideas will only help my retirement plans and I would get more security.”

A small group of Trump supporters gathered outside the gates of the rally, chanting their “disgust” of Sanders while touting Trump as their savior. Sanders supporters traded barbs with about two dozen of the Trump boosters as a group of NYPD police officers separated the two sides to prevent any physical altercation.

Todd Maisel