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Harvard students joined a crowd of more than 20,000 people in cheers and calls for “political revolution” in Boston on Saturday as Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed supporters.
“When we heard about this rally, we sort of realized we had to do something. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Justin G. Curtis ’19, the secretary of Harvard United for Bernie, a group of Sanders backers who organized students’ trip to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. “It’s a great opportunity to get people excited about Bernie who haven’t heard about him, or to consolidate support if they have.”
According to its members, Harvard United for Bernie is a growing student organization founded by a group of College juniors and seniors last spring in attempts to increase support for Sanders on campus and in the greater Boston area through partnerships with other local universities. The group led more than 75 Harvard students to the rally, cheering “Harvard United for Bernie!” and bearing pins, stickers, and handmade T-shirts.
“I’m eager to latch onto the enthusiasm of a genuine movement,” Ben P. Delsman ’19 said. “I think that there’s a buzz of authenticity surrounding Bernie’s campaign.”
Eduardo S. Cabral ’16, another supporter, joked that he wanted to go to the rally to see if he could lip sync Sanders’s speech because he had listened to the candidate’s previous ones multiple times.
“I realize how much of a fight this is going to be if he’s to become president. By coming to these rallies, by helping swell the numbers, we can increase his visibility,” Cabral said.
Although former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton is still widely considered the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic Party's nomination in the 2016 presidential election, Sanders continues to attract large crowds. The self-described democratic socialist has gained support among young people in particular.
Kai M. Mateo ’18, Harvard United for Bernie’s communications and outreach director, said he was not surprised at the large turnout of local college students at the Boston event this weekend.
“A lot of these issues really resonate with college students who are politically aware—things like working on income inequality, reforming healthcare, working to reform campaign finance ... and of course making higher education more accessible and more affordable for all Americans,” Mateo said.
Following speeches by Sanders’s national press secretary, a local nurse, a local transit union leader, a climate change activist, and a University of Massachusetts student, Sanders took the stage on Saturday. He spoke about issues of socioeconomic, racial, and gender disparities, high college tuition costs, police brutality, racial profiling, climate change, and foreign policy.
Attendees booed statistics on unemployment and incarceration rates and cheered Sanders’s proposals to invest in jobs and education, raise the minimum wage, and close the gender pay gap. After Sanders thanked attendees and welcomed them to “the political revolution,” the audience erupted in applause.
“It really was absolutely amazing,” Gabe S. Coonce ’19 said. “I’m from a tiny town in the Midwest. It’s extremely conservative, and this is completely unlike everything I’ve ever seen.”
Still, some students saw room for improvement. While Cabral found the rally “really phenomenal” overall, he said he was disappointed with what he perceived as the lack of diversity in the crowd.
“[Sanders] needs to not just rely on progressive white liberals to bring him to victory,” Cabral said. “I hope his campaign starts working harder on mobilizing African American voters and Latino voters.”
Mateo said he was pleased with the turnout of Harvard students at the rally. Harvard United for Bernie will launch phone banking and canvassing campaigns in the months leading up to the primary election, he added.
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