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"When I look at an unbelievable crowd like this," Sanders said at his largest campaign rally so far, "I believe we're going to win in New York next Tuesday." (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sanders' Political Revolution Draws Nearly 30,000 to New York City Rally

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drew a raucous crowd of 27,000 to a Manhattan rally ahead of the critical New York primary

Nika Knight

"There are a lot of people here tonight!" observed New York native Bernie Sanders as he began speaking to a raucous, cheering crowd of 27,000 in New York City's Washington Square park on Wednesday night, at the largest rally of the presidential hopeful's campaign thus far.

Members of the crowd climbed trees and crowded at the windows of surrounding buildings to catch a glimpse of the Vermont senator, and occasionally punctuated the candidate's speech with chants of "Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!"

Sanders drew an ardent crowd who applauded his anti-corporate message in Washington Square Park. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The crowd wore face paint, touted placards declaring "Brooklyn is Berning" and "Democracy v Oligarchy, Humanity v Greed," and some even arrived sporting Bernie Sanders costumes and puppets.

And while many attendees were young, Sanders also drew an older generation of progressives who remembered attending rallies in Washington Square to protest the Vietnam War in their youth.

One such member of the crowd was Robert Carpenter, a retired accountant and veteran from Queens, who told the New York Times, "Bernie is me. I am Bernie."

"I'm one year older than him," Carpenter told the newspaper. "We've been fighting for the same causes our entire lives."

Carpenter also told the Times that he could never vote for Sanders' opponent: "I will never, ever forgive [Hillary Clinton] for her voting for the Iraq War. To say it was a mistake? After all those people were killed and maimed? I do not accept that."

"What this campaign is profoundly about is that change is never from the top on down. It is always from the bottom on up."
—Bernie Sanders

Before Sanders' speech, the popular NYC-based band Vampire Weekend warmed up the crowd, and speeches from famous New Yorkers Rosario Dawson, Tim Robbins, and Spike Lee followed to praise the so-called outsider candidate to the overwhelming crowd of supporters.

Sanders himself even seemed surprised by the size of the rally, and smiled broadly when he arrived on the stage to deliver a speech that focused on a few of the touchstones of his campaign: corporate greed, campaign finance reform, climate change, and income inequality.

Speaking in the state for which Clinton served two terms as senator, and in the same city Wall Street financiers call home, the outspoken democratic socialist candidate also expressed optimism for his chances of winning the state's upcoming primary.

"When I look at an unbelievable crowd like this," Sanders said, "I believe we're going to win in New York next Tuesday."

His chances at winning, he argued, were good, particularly if the tens of thousands who came out on a cold Wednesday night to hear him speak presaged a large voter turnout for the state's April 19 primary.

Sanders also returned to his campaign's message about political revolution, urging the crowd to continue to fight to overturn the status quo.

"What this campaign is profoundly about," Sanders said, "is that change is never from the top on down. It is always from the bottom on up."

The senator continued:

What this campaign is about is the understanding that when we stand together—black, and white, and Latino, and Asian American, and Native American. When we do not allow the Donald Trumps of the world to divide us up, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. What this campaign understands is that real change is when 100 years ago, workers who were exploited, who worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, stood together and said 'we will be treated with dignity and respect,' and formed a trade union.

Sanders also reiterated his support for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union of Verizon employees who went on strike on Wednesday for a fair contract. CWA signs from the strike could be seen waving from the crowd; it appeared that many striking workers attended the rally after picketing all day.

"Tonight I want to take my hat off to the CWA. Thank you," Sanders said.

He told his supporters, "They are standing up to a greedy corporation that wants to cut their healthcare benefits, send decent paying jobs abroad, and then provide $20 million a year to their CEO."

The progressive crowd booed.

"And Verizon is just a poster child for what so many corporations are doing today," Sanders continued. "This campaign is sending a message to corporate America: You cannot have it all."

The crowd erupted into cheers.

Watch Sanders' full speech here:


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