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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. At the core of his campaign, Sanders said, is "bringing people together." (Photo: AP/Troy Wayrynen)

'Bringing People Together' Big Time as Sanders Attracts Tens of Thousands

Overflow crowd is estimated at nearly 30,000 people in Portland, Oregon as populist message continues to draw larger turnouts than any other presidential candidate

Jon Queally

It was by far the largest turnout for any presidential candidate this year, as nearly 30,000 people rallied in Portland, Oregon on Sunday evening for Bernie Sanders, filling the city's Moda Center to capacity with thousands more directed to overflow areas to watch the event on large screens.

"Whoa. This is an unbelievable turnout," said the U.S. senator and presidential candidate after taking the podium.

With a populist message and a continued upward trend in early state and national polling, Sanders has been breaking his own attendance records over recent weeks and months, attracting overflow crowds in liberal bastions like New England and the northwest, but also in more conservative states like Texas, New Orleans, and Arizona.

According to reporting by The Oregonian:

The senator received waves of thunderous applause as he vowed to fight for universal health benefits, paid family leave, paid sick leave, free public college tuition, a $15 minimum wage, expanded Social Security benefits and a major public works program to rebuild crumbling infrastructure.

"Almost all of the wealth is held by a small handful of people and together we are going to change that," said Sanders, vowing to take on the "billionaire class," end corporate tax breaks and break up major Wall Street financial institutions. "If they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist," he added.

"We see kids getting criminal records for having marijuana but the the CEOs of these major institutions get away" with no sanctions after their "greed and recklessness" caused the 2008 collapse of the financial markets.

Sunday's evening rally in Portland followed a Saturday night event at the University of Washington in Seattle that drew an estimated 15,000 people.

By contrast, as the Washington Post points out, the largest crowd yet attracted by Hillary Clinton's campaign was estimated at 5,500, which came at her formal New York kickoff event in June. None of the Republican candidates have seen crowds anywhere near what Sanders is getting.

Despite the ability of a few protesters to shut down an earlier campaign stop in Seattle on Saturday, the Sanders campaign continues to build traction with its far-reaching and inclusive populist message regarding economic inequality, social justice, and a broad call for a "political revolution" centered on getting big money out of politics, fighting corporate greed, and combating human-caused climate change. Additionally, Sanders has thus far gone further than other candidates in making criminal justice reform and racial inequities central issues of his platform.

As part of the campaign's expanding agenda, Sanders on Sunday released an updated and detailed issue statement on "racial justice" which calls for "addressing the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic."

During Sunday evening's rally in Portland, Sanders told the crowd "there is no candidate who will fight harder to end institutional racism in this country and to reform our broken criminal justice system."

Ultimately, however, he said that his goal is to unite those who are being mistreated, abused, and under-served by a political and economic status quo that is controlled and designed to benefit the rich and powerful while leaving working people, the poor, the middle class, and other vulnerable populations out in the cold.

At the core of his campaign, Sanders said, is "bringing people together."


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