By Janet Curiel |Staff Writer|
“Bernie! Bernie! Not me, us!” echoed from over 5200 supporters at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino on May 24.
Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders visited Riverside earlier that day as part of a string of rallies across the state in an attempt to capture California voters and delegates for the June 7 primary.
An ethnically diverse group of attendees, young and old, children and college-aged students lined the outdoor walkways for their chance to listen to Sanders message.
While waiting, many were greeted by avid Sanders volunteers, and an appearance by political hopeful Steve Stokes, self proclaimed “berniecrat,” running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat.
“Bernie is honest, he speaks unfiltered,” said Stokes.
Sanders was introduced by Daniel Franziese, best know as Damien from the movie “Meangirls,” and Kendrick Thompson from “The Vampire Diaries.”
Enthusiastic supporters cheered throughout Sanders hour long speech, which discussed topics such as a broken criminal justice system, mass incarceration of predominately blacks and Latinos, social security, minimum wage, overturning the “disastrous” Citizens United and corporate welfare.
Sanders directly referred to Walmart and said, “Pay workers a living wage…wages are so low, that many of them need food stamps and Medicaid to survive.”
One topic, which received overwhelming applause, was in regards to high student debt.
“We are living in a competitive global economy. We need the best education and workforce in the world. We should be rewarding people who get their education not punishing them, “ said Sanders.
With Sanders capturing as much as 84 percent of votes from ages 17-29 in some states, according to the Iowa entrance pole, many supporters are hopeful with the surge in voter turnout.
“It is really rewarding going to college campuses and seeing everyone engaged, it feels very reassuring to me,” said registered nurse Sherrie Stoddard.
Stoddard is a member of National Nurses United who travels with a coalition of nurses in support of Sanders in the Bernie Bus.
Sanders also made a point to reaffirm the significance of the movement.
“Here is the point; the whole country now understands, and the Democratic leadership must understand, that we and our ideas are the future of this country. And what that means is that our future of a nation based on social justice, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice—that is the future of America,” said Sanders.
One volunteer at the event, Kevin Ortiz, admitted he was initially a Hillary supporter last year, but once he heard Sanders speeches, began to participate in phonebanking for Sanders, attending rallies and debate watch parties.
“He’s not letting people bully him around to drop out (of the race),” said Ortiz.
Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “this is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people,” said Sanders in reference to his campaign funding.
During his speech, Sanders said 8 million individual contributions by more than 2.7 million individuals has accrued over 200 million dollars to his campaign. That is an average of $27 per donation.
News of the trending hashtag #bernietrumpdebate sparked from Donald Trump’s comments on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he would be willing to debate Sanders before the California primary for charity, which may create an edge in a divisive California primary for registered Democrats.
Sanders tweeted, “Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.”