Sanders comes to town: A local look at a national figure

By Jesse PR Prieto
News Editor

Thousands of Buffalonians lined up across the University at Buffalo North Campus in hopes of gaining entry to a rally held by Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont who has successfully mounted a national campaign against Democratic stalwart Hillary Clinton. Evidence from the campaign trail has long suggested that Sanders’ largest contingency of support stems from millennials. While the momentum of this demographic has been viewed skeptically since November, the mass mobilization of voters who “Feel the Bern” became evident as 13,000 people lined up to occupy one of the 6,000 seats available in UB’s Alumni Arena.

Monday’s rally was a clear demonstration of the highly politicized atmosphere that has come over Erie County, a unique time in which politics, elections, and policy are a topic of conversation that fewer and fewer are able to escape, evident by the large student population, who have been bombarded with political messaging on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, though that has been largely discounted by political analysts. However, as Politico reported, the Sanders campaign is the first to successfully turn virtual support into real grass roots support.

With doors opening at 4:00 p.m. and Sanders scheduled to appear at 7, several thousand attendees were lined up by three in the afternoon and by the time the line reached its peak, it stretched over a mile from the front doors of Alumni Arena and continued to wrap around the university’s sports stadium. Due to the unexpected swell of support, an estimated 5,000 supporters were left outside after the arena had been filled were joined by Sanders, who delivered an streamlined speech thanking them for showing support.

This delayed his 7 o’clock debut by nearly 45 minutes, but did not decrease excitement from supporters. Canisius College student Jacob Schamel, who waited for “nearly two and a half hours in the rain” to see the Senator, told The Griffin that “The Jubilant atmosphere of the crowed when Bernie walked out suggested that the thousands of other people who attended were not bothered by the elements either.”

After receiving endorsements from the local Black Lives Matter organization in Buffalo, Sanders stood at the podium and hammered home a broader stump speech than was expected. His speech covered everything from universal healthcare to national respect for First Nations People (more commonly known as Native Americans). In keeping with his pro-labor montra, Sanders openly supported the worker’s right to unionize – and encouraged the recent strike by Verizon employees.

In a unique turn of events, Sanders pivoted from his common stand against Goldman Sachs and merged it with his condemnation of trade deals. Verizon, according to his campaign, has taken advantage of these deals and has chosen “corporate greed” over the betterment and welfare of its workers.

Bursts of emotion were heard from the crowd as his speech went on, most notably when talking about a woman’s right to choose abortion. As if they were cheering on the UB Bulls basketball team, voters sitting in the bleachers stomped on their feet drowning out the arena with thunderous support of Sanders’ pro-choice stance. Sanders followed up by calling all men to stand by their fellow Americans in support of the feminist movement.
Canisius student Kevin Pryles said, “It was great to see the impact Bernie has had on his young supporters throughout the country and in Western New York thus far,” but went on to say that if he is going to win, Sanders will need more support from the older demographic. “It’s up to the younger generation to make that happen,” he said.

As candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties continue to press for support in Erie County, this heightened level of political consciousness in the community will continue. This awakening is likely to leave a long-lasting impression on the Buffalo community, assuming that millennial participation in the political process continue.

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