The arena of the Liacouras Center shook with thunderous applause when Sen. Bernie Sanders stepped up to the podium Wednesday night.
“This sounds to me like the sound of a political revolution,” Sanders said to the crowd of about 10,000 people.
During his hour-long speech, the presidential candidate denounced big corporations and the “1 percent” like Walmart and the Koch Brothers, while promoting policies like universal health care, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and ending mass incarceration.
“That is not direct democracy, that is oligarchy,” Sanders said of powerful corporations. “Fifty-eight percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. That is why together, we are going to create an economy that works for all of us.”
Sanders also encouraged reform in policing, drug policies and education.
“Why are we being punished for getting an education,” he said of students amassing debt for college degrees. One of his primary goals, he said, is to make public college tuition free.
Jay Falstad, executive director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, was holding a sign that read, “I’ve been an R [Republican] for 32 years I am voting Sanders.”
Falstad, a 50-year-old father of two from Maryland, said he voted for Ronald Reagan in ‘84 and George Bush, Sr. in ‘88 and ‘92.
“I’ve always been a moderate Republican and I’ve always voted for the best person,” he said. “In this case, [Sanders] is by far the best person … I care about the future of my country. … I care about what kind of country [my children are] going to have when they’re old enough to vote.”
Before speaking at the main rally, Sanders also addressed an overflow crowd in McGonigle Hall, due to large attendance in the Liacouras Center.
The Bernie Sanders campaign North Philadelphia office opening was held Tuesday evening, located at 1000 Diamond St. The event focused on recruiting volunteers to canvass in the community and at the rally.
Ryan Hughes, the state campaign director, previously worked as the state campaign director in Michigan. A veteran of presidential races, Hughes also worked on both of President Obama’s campaigns.
He said one of the similarities between the Sanders campaign and Obama’s campaign is the enthusiasm from supporters.
“I’ve never been prouder to be part of the movement that [Sanders] created,” Hughes said. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
He added the Sanders campaign has been largely reliant on grassroots organizers and volunteers.
“The cool thing is anywhere you go, you’ve got volunteers who are starting to do things a traditional campaign usually does,” Hughes said. “We’re lean and mean. … We have to make every penny count.”
The average donation is $27, he added, coming from “people who don’t have $27 to give.”
At the rally, Sanders responded to criticisms fellow presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has leveled against him by criticizing the super PACS backing Clinton.
Sanders also reassured the crowd that “Donald Trump is not going to become president.”
“The American people will not elect [Trump] president because they believe that this country is about people coming together,” he said. “At the end of the day, love trumps hatred.”
Sanders encouraged attendees to vote in the state primary on April 26.
“When voter turnouts are high, we win,” he said.
Lian Parsons can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Lian_Parsons.
Video by Harrison Brink and Abbie Lee.
CORRECTION: In the original story which was posted April 7, 2016, it incorrectly stated that Falstad voted for George Bush, Sr. in ’94. He actually voted for Bush in ’92, as there was no election in ’94.