Bernie Sanders Visits Syracuse


Photo: Hunter Igoe

On Tuesday, How To Get Away With Murder’s Kendrick Sampson and Rosario Dawson introduced a crowd of more than 7000 people to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the Syracuse Oncenter. Sanders has been focusing on Central New York for the past week to garner support for the New York Democratic Primary on April 19. Doors opened for the event earlier than stated at 10:00 a.m., by which point the line of supporters nearly circled the block.

Dawson, who has been outspoken in her support of Sanders, praised him for his consistency over decades in areas including fracking, LGBT rights, women’s rights, and civil rights. “He’s like Cassandra from the Greek myth, warning us about the Trojan Horse,” she said, “she was cursed to not be believed…we believe.” She criticized Sanders’ Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her stances on fracking and the Iraq War, as well as  Madeleine Albright for her comment about “a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.” “From the Black Lives Matter activists to our dreamers,” Dawson said, “We have to be thinking about all of them when we go to vote.” “When he tells me that at this juncture in time, we need him as our president,” she said, “so he’ll make the bold changes that we need quickly to do, I believe him.”

When Sanders took the stage, he discussed his objections to the wealth gap and the tax breaks of those on Wall Street. He addressed the differences between Clinton and himself, specifically how they fund their campaigns. While she has several Super PACs from interest groups, he refuses them and runs a grassroots campaign, having the most individual donations of any candidate in American history. Throughout his speech, he notably said words like “we” and “ours” when describing the position of the President, furthering his message of power to the people.

He continued his populist message by going after big business: “They are going to destroy the economy if we don’t break them up.” He also criticized the lack of consequences billionaires receive, saying “A kid in Syracuse gets picked up for marijuana possession and that kid will have a police record for his entire life.” “Destroy this economy,” he continued, “you don’t get a police record.” “We’re going to bring justice back.”

In his speech, he also commended President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but added that it was only a beginning. “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” he said. He addressed the importance of establishing equal pay for men and women, debunked the misconceptions of those on welfare, and his devotion to LGBT rights. He also condemned Donald Trump for his attacks on Latin Americans, Muslims, African-Americans, and women, as well as his place in the Birther Movement a few years ago. He challenged Trump on his doubt of Obama’s origin, explaining that similarly to Obama’s father being born in Kenya, his father was born in Poland. “Nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate,” he said. “Might it have something to do with the color of my skin versus the President’s’.”

A major platform of the speech, and his entire campaign, was about affordable higher education. “One thing young people are asking us: what happened to the American Dream?” He defined the American Dream as a parent creating a higher standard of living for their children; giving them more than you had. He went on, saying, “One thing young people talk to me about, they say ‘Bernie, how that when we do the right thing, we do what our parents said…we got the best education we could get, but we’re ending up…$90,000 in debt.’” He explained the need for free public education at the college level.

Sanders closed his speech by talking about the need for empathy. “When your family is hurting, I need to be there for you” he said, “and when my family is hurting you need to be here for me.”