Harnessing the broad desire for "transformative change," thousands are expected to gather this weekend in Chicago for a three-day event centered around many of the progressive issues that Bernie Sanders put at the forefront of his presidential campaign.
Backed by organizations including 350.org, Physicians for a National Health Program, National Nurses Union (NNU), Hedge Clippers, and the People for Bernie, the People's Summit says in its call for the event that it aims "to bring together activists committed to a different kind of agenda: a People's Agenda that can enhance and expand issue campaigns and hold all elected officials accountable to popular demands for justice, equality, and freedom."
Author and climate activist Naomi Klein was among the speakers presenting on Friday, while sessions on the docket for Saturday include "Understanding Our Movement Moment"; "Energy Democracy and Climate Justice"; "Ending Voter Suppression, Mass Incarceration, Deportations and Gender Inequality"; "Healthcare Not Warfare: It's Time for Global Peace and Justice"; and "How to Get Big Money Out of Politics."
The roster features presentations by noted progressives such as political scientist Frances Fox Piven, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo, and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, while the People Speak—dramatic readings inspired by the late Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States—will showcase artists including Rosario Dawson and Wallace Shawn.
While Sanders himself is not expected at the event, Isaiah Poole of Campaign for America Future's wrote this week that the Vermont senator's direct address to his supporters on Thursday "was a manifesto for what that summit, and the progressive movement generally, should be devoted to in the months and years ahead."
In that address, Sanders said that "transforming America...is not just about transforming elections," adding, "We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become." As Common Dreams reported,
Sanders said he hopes people who believe in the core tenets of his campaign—including raising the minimum wage, securing a Medicare For All program, fighting runaway climate change and economic inequality, bringing a halt to endless wars, and battling for racial justice and social equity—will pick up the mantle of his campaign by sustaining populist pressure on lawmakers and institutions or by running for local, state, and national office themselves.
Indeed, as RoseAnn DeMoro, executive directive of NNU (and one of Sanders' picks for the DNC's platform drafting committee), said ahead of the event, "Community organizing—on healthcare, the climate crisis and environmental pollution, poverty, income inequality, racial justice, immigration rights, affordable housing, student debt—has been underway for many years, far from the media spotlight."
"A signal accomplishment of the Bernie Sanders campaign," she said, "has been to highlight so many of these issues, through the vehicle of a national presidential campaign, and demonstrate the broad public support for real, transformative change."
With that in mind, Sanders himself may be pleased with the gathering in the City of Big Shoulders. The Boston Globe's Victoria McGrane wrote Saturday: "Bernie Sanders is not taking his revolution gently into that good night," and "is executing an intricate endgame to the Democratic primary that he hopes will continue to inspire the 12 million voters who flocked to him."
Watch a livestream of the event here, and follow the People's Summit on Twitter as it continues: