“Tell me what democracy looks like!” A leader yelled.
“This is what democracy looks like!” Responded a crowd of about 500.
This chant was among many heard last Saturday at a march in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Presidential Election. The “March for Bernie” began at City Hall, and marchers made their way to Rittenhouse Square and back.
Sanders supporters filled 18th and 19th streets and John F. Kennedy Boulevard for the length of four city blocks near Rittenhouse Square.
The march came after a rally, during which politicians and union leaders stood up to support Sanders as a presidential candidate for the 2016 election.
“It is fitting that we hold this rally in the birthplace of [the American] revolution,” said Jed Dodd, general chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, to the crowd during the rally. “Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution. … We will fight to ensure that the tremendous wealth that we produce in this country is used for the needs of the people and not the billionaires and their political servants.”
Dodd also told the crowd that his union unanimously voted to endorse Sanders in the upcoming presidential primary on April 26.
Alyssa Almeida, a freshman music therapy major and a co-founder of the organization Temple University Students for Bernie Sanders, said she attended the march because she supports Sanders as a candidate.
“[Sanders is] a true progressive candidate,” Almeida said. “He’s true to his policies, and he’s very honest.”
Almeida said Sanders appeals to young people because despite being 74 years old, “[Sanders has] been going out to marches since the ‘60s doing the kind of thing—he’s kept this youthful spirit.”
John Fetterman, who is mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and currently running for U.S. Senate, attended the march.
“We’re feeling the Bern in Pennsylvania!” Fetterman said to the crowd.
During the rally, delegates collected signatures from Pennsylvania residents to get the 2,000 signatures necessary for Sanders to be on the Pennsylvania primary ballot. Voter registration forms were also available for eligible Pennsylvania residents who had yet to register.
As supporters marched, many armed with posters, the crowd drew in passers-by from the streets to join the march. Justin Miller, a 26-year-old resident of Center City, stood outside on 18th Street and watched the march with his friends.
“Their passion and enthusiasm is kind of infectious, I won’t lie,” Miller said. “I’m very centrist, but I think their passion is really cool.”
“The reason why I want to organize for Bernie is that he speaks for all of us,” said South Philly resident and march organizer Amanda McIllmurray. “He really is talking about the issues that need to be spoken about. For example, I had to drop out of college because I was paying for it by myself and I couldn’t afford that anymore, and I’m not the only person that had this happen.”
“He’s inspiring the younger generation,” said Kaitlyn Grey, a sophomore criminal justice major and Temple College Democrats member. “And I think that the younger generation is a demographic that’s been told that as we grow up we could do anything. But when we actually grew up, we found out that that wasn’t necessarily the case.”
“Bernie is trying to speak to that and agreeing with what we’re saying are the reasons why it’s so hard for us to make it,” Grey added.
“He’s raising in the polls [in New Hampshire and Iowa], but people are celebrating too soon,” Almeida said. “You can’t celebrate before you hit the end zone. People have to keep volunteering and spreading the word about him.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at email@example.com.