FeelingTheBern: Bernie Sanders at Moda Center

More than 11,000 people were at the rally

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders smiles as a bird lands on his podium when he addresses the crowd during a rally at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders smiles as a bird lands on his podium when he addresses the crowd during a rally at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — He entered to the strains of a Bruce Springsteen song and left as David Bowie played. Inbetween, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was every bit a rock star in his campaign rally at the Moda Center in Portland.

This rock star had a brief co-star: a bird landed on his podium during his speech, drawing a laugh from the candidate and roar from the crowd.

After being introduced by a transgender woman who fully endorsed “the next President of the United States,” Sanders walked onto the stage at the Moda Center to the strains of a Springsteen song.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” he said, “but there’s a lot of people here,” he said from the same stage The Boss was on a few nights ago.

More than 11,000 people filled the Moda Center before a campaign rally with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Friday as he continued his West Coast campaign trip.

The crowd roared as he let them know Donald Trump will never be president, in part because the American people will never elect someone who insults a wide swath of people and ethnicities.He recited a familiar theme: when he began his campaign 11 months ago he trailed the presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton by nearly 70 points. Now, he said, one poll has him up by a point nationally.

One of the biggest roars from the crowd came when Sanders quoted Abraham Lincoln: “This is a campaign of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Drawing a contrast between himself and Clinton, he attacked her for her ties to Wall Street. Clinton, he said, would release her transcripts of every speech she gave on Wall Street if everyone else did, including some where she earned more than $200,000.

“I am prepared to make a dramatic statement: I am prepared to release the transcripts of all the speeches I gave on Wall Street,” he said. After a beat, he added, “There are no speeches I gave on Wall Street.”

He talked about the crisis over Flint’s drinking water and said he would support increasing money to rebuild crumbling infrastructure in the United States.

“Real change never occurs from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.” — Bernie Sanders

“I will do my best to phase out fracking,” he said to a giant roar. “Secretary Clinton still supports fracking.”

Instead of listening to large campaign contributors, he said, “We should listen to ordinary people.”

He said families can’t take care of themselves on “starvation wages,” and said, “If you work 40 hours a week you should not be living in poverty.”

Sanders then re-iterated his support for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Bernie and the bird #keepingitportland

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His campaign, he said, is experiencing success because he’s listening to the people, including young people. He once again explained his plan to address the burden of student debt by make college tuition free.

“When we talk about public education, 30 to 50 years ago it was great,” he said. “But the world has changed, technology has changed, the economy has changed. People need more education.”

Free college “is not a radical idea,” he said. “We’ve got to rethink our education.”

“We have people being suffocated with outrageously high student debt. … People should not have to pay 20-30-40% of their income to pay off student debt.”

Sanders then explained how he’d pay for that — by taxing the wealthiest 1% of the population, and getting the millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.

“It would bring in more than enough to make college tuition free and help pay off student debt,” he said.

The bird

The Democratic candidate smiled and the audience of more than 10,000 went wild when a tiny bird joined Sanders at the podium on Friday.

Without losing a beat, the Vermont senator said even though it didn’t look like a dove, it must have been one that came to ask for world peace.

The video of Sanders and his feathered friend went viral on social media, with the hashtag #BirdieSanders.

The phrase “put a bird on it” is a line that was used in the TV show “Portlandia” as a reflection of the city’s quirky ways.

A crowd gathered around Sen. Bernie Sanders as he left the stage at the Moda Center in Portland, March 25, 2016 (KOIN)
A crowd gathered around Sen. Bernie Sanders as he left the stage at the Moda Center in Portland, March 25, 2016 (KOIN)

The senator then veered off into a discussion of family values, and said his values are different than the Republicans — he supports gay rights and comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration reform is “about uniting families, not dividing families.”

“We need to rethink the so-called War on Drugs,” he said. He noted marijuana and heroin are classified in the same way in the federal government, but he’s introduced legislation to change that.

“What we have got to do as a nation is understand that the best way to deal with drug abuse is not to deal with it as a crime but as a health issue.”

Climate change is a “planetary crisis,” he said. By moving from fossil fuels to solar energy, the US can create millions of good-paying jobs and at the same time help slow climate change.

A familiar theme throughout his campaign has been health care. “Let me say it again: Health care is a basic right of all Americans,” he said to the roar of the crowd.

Sanders listed all the countries that have universal health care and noted the US is the largest country without universal coverage for all its citizens.

The Affordable Care Act is a good start, he said, but doesn’t go far enough.

“Together,” he said, “we will enact a Medicare-for-all system,” a plan that would save families thousands of dollars a year.

The Sanders campaign is marked by his insistence on small donations from millions of contributors in a self-described political revolution.

“Real change” he said, “never occurs from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.”

As he wrapped up, he talked about the upcoming caucuses in Washington on Saturday and the primary in Oregon on May 17.

“Washington and Oregon can help transform this country,” he said, “Let’s do it.”

Off he went, waving to the crowd as David Bowie’s “Starman” blared over the speakers.

The set up

A musical group opened for Bernie Sanders at the Moda Center in Portland, March 25, 2016 (bernside_pdx via Twitter)
A musical group opened for Bernie Sanders at the Moda Center in Portland, March 25, 2016 (bernside_pdx via Twitter)

The rally, slated to begin around 12:45 p.m., got a late start as Sanders conducted interviews with the local media.

A series of youthful speakers made brief remarks before Sanders came on. A member of the Dandy Warhols, who identified herself as a working mother, a cannabis enthusiast and an energized voter, was the first to the stage. The crowd roared on her words, as they did for the next speaker who encouraged volunteers to go out and knock on doors.

“If everyone here knocked on 10 doors today, we could knock on 300,000 doors today alone,” he said. “That is how you make the change.”

A brief musical interlude followed when a guitarist and 2 singers took the stage, followed by rhythmic chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!”

Doors opened at 9:45 a.m. but people began lining up before dawn.

Rock, reggae and country music blared as the thousands of supporters filled the Moda Center. This stop comes just 5 days after the Vermont senator spoke to an overflow crowd at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver.

Around 28,000 people showed up the last time Sanders held a rally at the Moda Center in August. Nearly 19,000 people filled the arena, which was originally scheduled at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which has a capacity of about 12,000.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said traffic delays around the Moda Center on Friday would last until about 3 p.m. Additional bike parking is available for attendees at the Rose Quarter.

Photos: Bernie Sanders 2015 rally at Moda Center 

Sanders launched into the issues that have resonated with millions — the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, his stance against Wall Street and his tenet that his campaign is doing something totally different.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)

“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!”

Earlier this week, Sanders denounced long lines at Arizona polls during the state’s primary election, calling the situation a disgrace.

“We do not know how many thousands of people who wanted to vote yesterday in Arizona did not vote,” Sanders said during a press conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited the number of people at the Moda Center for this rally. The correct number is slightly more than 11,000.

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