Bernie Sanders presents progressive platform to 5,200 supporters at East LA rally
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a rally in East Los Angeles Saturday. Over 5,200 people came to support the Vermont senator, despite a last-minute venue change. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he would cancel student debt and make college free at a rally in East Los Angeles on Saturday.
Sanders held the rally in the predominantly Latino Eastside to mobilize voters in the area. Scores of placards reading “Unidos con Bernie,” which translates to “United with Bernie,” joined the usual signs simply bearing the candidate’s name, and Ozomatli, an East LA-based Latin rock band, provided live music.
Despite a last-minute venue change, over 5,200 people came to support the Vermont senator, according to Gilberto Martinez, principal of Woodrow Wilson High School, where the rally was held.
Sanders, a three-term senator and former eight-term congressman, is a stalwart supporter of the liberal socialist movement, advocating for progressive causes, such as civil rights, for over half a century. His 2016 bid for presidency garnered large grassroots support from small donors, a trend that has continued into the 2020 race.
At the event, Sanders said that the two fundamental goals of his campaign are leveling inequality and overhauling the country’s health care system.
“There is something profoundly wrong when so few have so much and so many have so little,” Sanders said. “There is something grotesquely immoral about three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, but tonight 500,000 Americans will be sleeping out on the street.”
Sanders proposed raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, tackling the gender pay gap, doubling the number of workers in unions and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, while also providing affordable housing.
Sanders also said he thinks the American health insurance system is one of the biggest drivers of socioeconomic inequality.
“We are going to take on the greed of the insurance companies which charge us twice as much per person in health care as do the people of any other country,” Sanders said. “That’s going to end.”
Sanders said his Medicare for All plan will fight the injustice of the multibillion-dollar health care industry that leaves tens of millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured.
“Our Medicare for All proposal means no more premiums, no more co-payments, no more deductibles, no more out-of-pocket expenses,” Sanders said. “It means when you get sick … you don’t take out your wallet or your credit card. That is what a civilized health care system is about in a democratic society.”
Sanders pledged his support for the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution that attempts to tackle climate change. He also promised to invest in sustainable energies, such as wind and solar, instead of fossil fuels. Instituting this plan would create 20 million jobs, he added.
Dylan Portillo, a third-year geography/environmental studies student, said he was most inspired by Sanders’ promise to tackle climate change and to hold the fossil fuel industry responsible, especially in light of the recent wildfires in California.
“I’m from a small town in Northern California (that was) 15 miles away from the Camp fire,” Portillo said. “And as a California experience, wildfires are terrifying and they continue to worsen. We’re at a time where we can’t wait anymore. And (Sanders) is the candidate at the forefront and is taking his policy to Congress and the fossil fuel industry.”
Sanders also said he would push to reform education, raise wages for teachers, cancel student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Two days before the rally Sanders also earned the support of United Teachers Los Angeles, the first teachers’ union to endorse a presidential candidate.
“I will make sure that every teacher in America earns at least $60,000 because we believe in human rights,” Sanders said. “We believe that everybody, regardless of their income, has the right to get a higher education.”
Felipe Gallegos Arellano, a student at Antelope Valley College and a campaign volunteer, is set to transfer to California State University, Los Angeles soon. As someone who withdrew from high school and is from a low-income family, Gallegos had to forfeit two acceptances into the University of California system because his financial aid couldn’t cover housing costs.
“My first choice UC (was) UC Santa Cruz, but … I couldn’t afford the housing,” Gallegos said. “Then I thought about, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll settle for UC Merced,’ and then I couldn’t afford that, either.”
Gallegos, who will commute to CSULA from home, said he supports Sanders because the candidate’s platform includes increases to the Pell Grant to cover the nontuition costs of school.
“The Pell Grant has been a lifesaver for me for the last two years,” Gallegos said. “It’ll help you with housing, food, utilities, transportation.”
Despite the enthusiasm of Sanders and his supporters, underneath the progressive agenda of the campaign speech lies an urgency to defeat the incumbent President Donald Trump, whom Sanders said he disagrees with on everything.
“The president is not only a pathological liar, not only running the most corrupt administration in modern American history, but he is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a homophobe,” Sanders said. “People like him do not belong in the White House.”
Sanders criticized the Trump administration for separating immigrant parents from their children at the border, reducing corporate taxes and scaling back climate change regulations.
“Trump is a danger, not only to our country, but to the world, and that’s his ignorance and his refusal to acknowledge the reality of climate change,” Sanders said.