Bernie Sanders rallies in Vancouver: ‘We are telling truth’

Bernie Sanders campaigning in the West

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Hudson Bay High School in Vancouver, March 20, 2016 (KOIN)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Entering the stage to the strains of Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World,” Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to an overflow crowd at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver Sunday afternoon.

Despite the early morning rain, hundreds of people were Feeling the Bern hours before Sanders was set to arrive. Reggae, rock and Motown music blared from the speakers prior to his arrival. Just before 1 p.m. the crowd began chanting, “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!”

At 1:15 p.m., John Lennon’s “Power to the People” came over the speakers as the crowd began to do The Wave.

Shortly after brief introductions by campaign leaders and more chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” and “Feel the Bern!”, the candidate who, more than anyone else, has tapped into people power came to the stage to a tumultuous roar of approval from those gathered.

He wasted no time in launching into the issues that have resonated with millions of people around the county — the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, his stance against Wall Street and his tenet that his campaign is doing something totally different than most political campaigns.

“We are telling the truth,” he said to a roar of approval.

He also delivered a message to the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street: “No, this country is not going to become an oligarchy. This country is a democracy!”

He said the “rigged economy” unfairly favors the wealthiest who do not need the help at the expense of those most vulnerable.

A rigged economy is when “working people pay higher taxes to subsidize the wealthiest families in America,” Sanders said. “So, I say to the Walton family: Pay your workers a decent wage and get them off welfare!””

He was referring to the family that owns Walmart.

He called for a move to “demilitarize” police departments, hold police accountable for crimes they commit and the need to make police departments look like the community they serve and protect.

Sanders also called for an end to the war on drugs. “I have introduced legislation to take marijuana out” of the list of most dangerous drugs.

He added that heroin and opioid addiction is a major crisis, but wants to address the problem as “a health issue, not a legal issue.”

He also pledged to increase Social Security benefits.

His campaign strengths

“This campaign is listening to young people,” the Vermont senator said. “They are the future of America.”

He admitted older people don’t flock to his campaign, but “we are doing phenomenally well with young people,” and said his campaign has attracted more voters under 30 than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.

Then he launched into a full-throated attack on the overwhelming student debt young people have and wondered, “Why are you punishing young people with outrageous levels of student debt?” He said people should get all the education they need.

“We must make public colleges and universities tuition-free,” which elicted perhaps the biggest roar of the rally.

A campaign volunteer staffer who introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Vancouver, March 20, 2016 (KOIN)
A campaign volunteer staffer who introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Vancouver, March 20, 2016 (KOIN)

“I think it is time for a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will bring in more than enough money to make colleges and universities tuition-free.”

“We are all tired of seeing Flint, Michigan where children are being poisoned,” he said, pledging to invest $1 trillion in upgrading infrastructure around the country. And by doing that, he said, it will create “13 million good-paying jobs.”

“I will tell you what you already know but my Republican colleagues don’t seem to know, and that is that climate change is real, it’s human caused and it’s already caused problems.”

He pledged to move away from fossil fuels and in so doing will create “millions of good paying jobs.”

The crowd roared again when he said “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” erupting into spontaneous chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” The Affordable Care Act, he said, is a good start. “But we have got to go further.”

He then took aim at drug companies for their overcharging of life-saving medicines.

“It’s time for us to move to a Medicare-for-all system,” he said.

Then he urged his supporters to caucus next Saturday because, he said, the math is clear: If his supporters turn out, he wins.

The crowd again roared as he left the stage to the strains of David Bowie.

Elsewhere in Washington and the West Coast

Sanders plans to also hold rallies in Seattle and Spokane on Sunday.

Among the people who arrived early at the Vancouver location were two 18-year-olds named Max — Max Van Arnam and Max Houser. They were both excited by the prospect of being at a Bernie rally.

“I support all the policies he’s for and he fits my demographic,” Van Arnam said. “I really feel like he’s a genuine person,” Houser added. “I don’t agree with all his far left, radical positions but he’s real.”

There are 118 Democratic delegates at stake in Washington, with 101 to be awarded proportionally based on the results of the caucuses.

The remaining 17 are technically unpledged party and elected leaders, though a majority of them — including Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s Congressional delegation — have already said they support Hillary Clinton.

Former President Bill Clinton will attend Hillary for Washington Get Out The Caucus events in Spokane and Vancouver on Monday, March 21.

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