Over 4,000 attend Sanders rally on Friday before primary election

Springfield rally focused on health care, climate change

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Ana Pietrewicz/Daily Collegian

On Friday night, 4,750 people attended a rally for 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Sanders was one of only a few candidates to visit the Bay State in the weekend preceding Super Tuesday, when 14 U.S. states and one territory – including Massachusetts – will hold primary elections for the Republican and Democratic nominations.

In a 45-minute long speech, the Vermont senator addressed issues including climate change, prison reform and education while also repeatedly attacking incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump for his record in office.

“So what this campaign is about, is number one, we’re going to beat Trump, and we’re going to beat him badly, but second of all — we are in the process of putting together an unprecedented multi-racial, multi-generational grassroots movement,” Sanders said.

Solomon Bennett, a University of Massachusetts student who attended the event, said he was attracted to the “diverse movement” that Sanders is building, adding that he felt the speech went “very well.” When asked about specific issues that attracted him to Sanders as a candidate, Bennett said it was every issue as they were all interconnected.

James Talbot, another UMass student, said Sanders was “absolutely on fire” and that the “energy behind this campaign is completely unseen before.”

Healthcare dominated Sanders’ speech as he emphasized his plan to bring “Medicare for All” into action. Citing numerous statistics, Sanders commented on high pharmaceutical drug prices, the number of people who die because they don’t go to a doctor due to healthcare costs and the history of healthcare reform efforts in the United States.

“100 years of talk is enough. Now is the time for action,” Sanders said, pointing out that presidents including Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were talking about problems with American health care in past generations.

State Senator Jamie Eldridge talked about endorsing Sanders in 2016 and again in 2020.

“What Bernie Sanders has done in the past four years is that he has transformed the Democratic party,” Eldridge said in his speech before the senator spoke.

Sanders, one of the oldest candidates on the campaign trail in 2020, emphasized his record in office, including his vote against a Wall Street bailout in 2008. On the topic of education, he asked, “If you think outside of the box, and if you think about a government that represents workers and not billionaires, then you ask yourself, ‘How did it happen that 12 years ago, against my vote, Congress voted to bail out the crooks of Wall Street? How did it happen that two years ago, Trump gave his billionaire friends and large corporations a trillion dollar tax cut?’”

“Well if we can bail out the crooks on Wall Street, you know what we can do? We can cancel all student debt in America,” Sanders said.

Sanders also commented on low voting rates, particularly in younger generations, saying “we have got to change that.” He encouraged all who attended the rally to participate in campaign outreach through phone banking, knocking on doors and encouraging friends and family members to vote on Tuesday. He added, “People fought and died for our right to vote.”

“You can’t just sit back and watch the TV,” Sanders said towards the end of his speech. “You [have got to] get involved.”

“If we are going to transform this country, the only way we are going to do it is together.”

Four high school seniors from Worcester – Grace Beauregard, Meghan Sjogren, Kamryn Cobel and Isabelle LaVallee – attended the event after becoming interested in politics due to their Advanced Placement U.S. Government class.

When asked what appealed about Sanders as a candidate, Sjogren said “he just appeals to all the young people,” citing his positions on health care and education. Cobel added that, since 2016, when they were in their freshman year of high school, they’ve been aware of Sanders as a potential candidate for president.

“I’ll be voting for the first time this fall,” LaVallee said. “I’m really excited for it.”

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten. Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected]