Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made a stop in Bushwick Wednesday night on his 2024 election campaign trail, flanked by his newly-appointed urban community advisor Tramell Thompson.
Thompson, a Brooklyn native and founder of a caucus called Progressive Action, introduced Kennedy before he took to the stage at a former warehouse-turned-venue in the nabe’s industrial business zone.
“Everyone in this room are stakeholders in this campaign. We need to get his man elected, he is the change that we all want to see. Bobby is not only my friend, he’s America’s friend,” Thompson told the some 300 or so supporters who were in attendance at 99 Scott Ave. wearing Kennedy pins and T-shirts.
Thompson, a subway conductor and strident critic of union leadership, made headlines earlier this year when he was involved with a brawl with transit union vice president. Of late he has been promoting Kennedy’s presidential run using his social media channels, as well as facility interviewing and appearance, most recently with the Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 FM.
Brooklyn Paper contacted Thompson and the Kennedy campaign to gain further insight into the role of urban community advisor, but neither party had responded at the time of publication.
After years working as an environmental rights lawyer, suing polluters and cleaning up rivers around the country, Kennedy is now mostly known for his conspiracy politics — sharing often unfounded and misleading conspiracies about vaccines, chemicals in drinking water, and Wi-Fi radiation, among other things.
Since launching his presidential bid back in April, Kennedy has used his family legacy to garner support — but his controversial views have seen members of his own clan distance themselves from the campaign.
Kennedy — who said Wednesday’s event in Bushwick would focus on economic policy and the rising costs of necessities like food and medicine — kicked off proceedings speaking of trips with his family as a boy, and claimed Pope John Paul II made them chicken sandwiches while the former pontiff was in the priesthood — a tidbit which triggered “oohs” of amazement from the audience.
The candidate continued to play on his family’s past, sharing anecdotes of his childhood during a period he described as “America’s years of prosperity,” and frequently comparing himself to his late father and uncle.
Kennedy did speak to some of his economic plans — promising during his speech to introduce a 3% mortgage rate that would be backed by the government and funded by the sale of tax free bonds. He also pledged to go after large corporations who are buying up homes at high prices and squeezing prospective family home buyers out of the market.
Later, when asked about New York’s migrant crisis during a Q&A session, Kennedy said the border needed to be sealed and secured, noting that asylum seekers are being exploited in the city but claiming temporary housing of migrants on Randall’s Island “is depriving the children of the city from playing on the sporting fields” and impacting sports scholarships.
“We need their [migrants] help, we need their contributions to our society. But we can’t do that until we assure the American people that the border is secure and we are controlling it, and not the Mexican drug cartels,” he said.
The migrant relief center at Randall’s Island is made up of dozens of tents close to three sports fields but has not closed the sports grounds completely as was claimed.
Harkening back to both JFK and RFK’s opposition of the military industrial complex, Kennedy segued to the Ukraine invasion which he said “could have easily been avoided or settled.”
“When I get into office I’m going to immediately negotiate a settlement to end the Ukraine war,” he said, though he did not substantiate how he would do so.
Noting that his son, Conor Kennedy, had previously enlisted to fight in Ukraine, Kennedy said “it is clear today to an increasing number of Americans, that we are not there to do a favor for the Ukrainian people.” He said that U.S aid for Ukraine was “essentially a money laundering scheme”.
Kennedy also used his time in front of a Brooklyn audience to take aim at his 2024 rivals, accusing President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump of gaslighting the public.
“I’m running against two presidents who have both served one term and are essentially gaslighting the American people by telling them that they’ve produced a wave of prosperity for this country, they are running on that record,” said Kennedy, adding that the families he has been speaking to on the campaign trail are experiencing “a level of desperation, of fear, of insecurity, of dispossession, and alienation.”
Over a year out from election day, Kennedy is polling at around 12-16% among Democrats — while Biden, the current leader in the race, is polling above 60%. Kennedy is also preferable candidate in some Republican circles — the pro-Kennedy super PAC American Values 2024 received the bulk of its money from two major donors who have previously backed Republican causes.
Though some of Kennedy’s political stances are in line with the mainline Democratic party, much of his ethos is more closely aligned with far-right Republicans – making left-leaning Bushwick an unlikely stop for the candidate.
“The north Brooklyn IBZ is an odd location choice for an anti-vax candidate’s campaign event,” wrote local state Senator Julia Salazar on X, formerly known as Twitter.
While Brooklyn has some Republican strongholds – largely in the southern parts of the borough – it has the largest number of registered Democrats of any county in New York State, per city data. In the 2020 presidential election, Kings County voted overwhelmingly in support of Biden, who received more than 700,000 votes in total, compared to former president Donald Trump’s roughly 200,000.
In Assembly District 53, which includes Bushwick, more than 90% of voters supported Biden, according to unofficial data compiled by Gothamist.