Weekend with Bernie: Sanders returns to Bklyn for first rally of his 2020 campaign

Back to college: Bernie Sanders hosted the first rally of his 2020 presidential campaign at Brooklyn College on March 2.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Brooklyn’s feeling the Bern — again!

Thousands of left-leaning locals packed Brooklyn College’s East Quad on Saturday to watch borough son, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, deliver the first rally of his recently announced 2020 presidential campaign, where he ascribed his self-described democratic-socialist values to his humble Kings County roots.

“I was born a few miles away from here on E. 26th Street and Kings Highway, and my family and I lived in a three-and-a-half-room, rent-controlled apartment,” Sanders told the crowd. “My experience as a child, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values.”

The pol, who attended Brooklyn College for a year in 1959 after graduating from James Madison High School, made a laundry list of progressive promises — including Medicare for all, a national $15 minimum wage, free enrollment at public colleges, outlawing for-profit prisons, and ending the so-called War on Drugs — to his adoring supporters, occasionally pausing as chants of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” erupted from the audience.

And throughout his speech, Sanders took every opportunity to distinguish his and his campaign’s values from those of the country’s sitting commander-in-chief, whom he derided as a racist, sexist, homophobe, and called “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”

“I want to welcome you to a campaign which says loudly and clearly that the underlying principals of our government will not be greed, hatred, and lies; it will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious bigotry; it will not be tax breaks for billionaires, and efforts to throw millions off of the health care that they currently have,” Sanders said.

Campaign staffers estimated the rally drew some 13,000 Berners, and attendees waited for hours in lines that stretched down Bedford Avenue for a chance to hear the two-time presidential hopeful speak, according to one Brooklyn College student.

“The turnout was crazy,” said Daniela Umana. “I was in shock.”

But the wait was well worth it, according to another Sanders supporter from Prospect Heights, who praised the Independent politician for largely sticking to his long-time agenda of radical social and economic reform, even as many argue he must cater to more moderate voters to claim the Democratic Party’s nomination after failing to do so in 2016.

“I was very glad that we did not see some new message coming through,” said Robert Segal. “He was spot on in 2016, and he’s been saying the same thing for 37 years. If he suddenly changed his tack in an attempt to better navigate the electoral systems, I would be really disappointed. But he didn’t.”

Sanders, who opened offices in Gowanus and Flatbush during his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Party line ahead of the last election, returned to Brooklyn College almost two years after delivering the school’s 2017 commencement address, when he again criticized the 45th president, and received an honorary degree from the university — roughly 58 years after he transferred from it to the University of Chicago.

Reps for his campaign could not be immediately reached about whether or not the pol again plans to open offices in Brooklyn.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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