Sanders Holds Weekend Rally In Queensbridge
There were a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters in Queensbridge Park on the afternoon of Saturday, October 19, 20,000 in fact, and several thousand crowded outside the park. They cheered loudly and frequently through several undercard introductions and, of course, the main event: a rousing address by Sanders, the senator from Vermont and presidential candidate. Their cheers may have been loudest when, in the midst of remarks he declared, “I am back!” Not three weeks before, he had suffered a mild heart attack and required two stents, so he was saying to those who at first charged he was too old to be running at 78 and could now add a heart attack to their indictment, that he was as defiant and energetic as ever.
A massive turnout of approximately 25,000 people of all ages and demographics, many of them young and white, trooped into the park before 1:00 pm to the tune of AC/DC’s Back in Black played over the loudspeakers, to stand in a wide field beneath a cloudless sky. Thousands had to be turned away due to the NYC Parks’ permit allowing only 20,000 into the park. The program started pretty much on time, as Jane Sanders, the candidate’s wife, said little beyond introducing the speaker who followed her, to great cheers: Michael Moore.
The well-known documentary filmmaker (Roger & Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, Capitalism: A Love Story and many others), said he recognized Sanders early after Bernie, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont ran for Congress and won. Moore attended a Vermont rally for him, saying that in those days (1991) he and “two guys from Vermont who made ice cream” (Ben & Jerry) were the only ones present who could remotely be called famous.
“The powers that be are very unhappy you’re here,” Moore said to Sanders, who had yet to arrive. As for his being too old, Moore said the Electoral College and several other things are what should be called “too old.” Moore said much was made about Sanders’ health, when we should be concerned about the health of the planet. He addressed those who said we cannot afford Medicare for All, but ironically noted that Canada can afford it on their massive wealth from maple syrup, to paraphrase Moore. He hailed the candidate’s warning that beating President Trump is not nearly enough. His programs such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, jobs guarantee, and free school tuition need to have a Congress that is willing and able to pass them.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, said that after Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Sanders paid a visit without cameras or entourage. She said she was a climate change survivor. Before that she had not been a Sanders supporter. She and Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, of the Sanders campaign committee, did as their predecessor did and successors would do by chanting such things as “We must win!” and “Yes we can!” Turner spoke of Sanders’ newest endorsements from New York elected officials, including NYS Senators Michael Gianaris, James Sanders, and Assemblyman Ron Kim.
Tiffany Cabán, who lost the Queens district attorney race in 2019 (“You got robbed!” was the crowd’s serenade to her), said she was moved to run for office by seeing what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did by winning a primary and then general election for a House of Representatives seat in 2018. That was a way of getting around to introducing the woman now known as AOC, the initials that became the crowd’s next chant.
AOC would introduce Sanders, but not before envisioning a working-class revolution throughout the United States or saying how her bar/restaurant job before she won the primary, was an education in seeing how working class women, not to speak of men, are ill-paid and ill-treated. She also praised the large Democratic presidential field, though many in the crowd or on the stage might not have been so impressed with the other candidates.
When she introduced Sanders, cheers, chants and sign-waving went on for several minutes. When it abated, he said of Ocasio-Cortez that it was “hard to believe” how she had “transformed American politics” in little more than a year. He said of Michael Moore that he knows what side he’s on. He also said his wife Jane would make a terrific first lady.
Sanders thanked all those who expressed concern about “my illness” but also said “I am more than ready to assume the presidency of the United States.” It was then that he declared he was “back.” The crowd first chanted “Bernie’s back!” and then, “We’re gonna win!” – to which he said, “Damn right we’re gonna win!”
He pledged an agenda that addresses “the pain of the American people,” by such measures as doubling the number of employed workers “in our first four years”; by closing the economic gap between white and black families and ending the “death sentence” of poverty; and by raising respect for such persons as teachers, often forced to pay for many of their school supplies.
He raises great hope and skepticism, going for goals considered impossible and lacking moderation. At the rally, he justified his fervency with Nelson Mandela’s observation that “It always seems impossible until it is done.”