A massive crowd in the tens of thousand flocked to Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion Monday for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign rally.
The Craneway, a former Ford Motor assembly plant, had reached its 3,000-person capacity by 11:00 a.m., forcing thousands more onlookers to peer through windows and listen in on amplified speakers set up outside.
Sanders divided his time onstage between making pointed criticisms of both former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump, and urging listeners to volunteer their time to his election bid, a strategy the campaign has leaned heavily on.
Ripping into the president’s denial of climate change, he said:
“Donald Trump thinks global warming is a hoax. I think he is a hoax.”
Sanders said of Bloomberg:
“He has a right to run for president. He does not have the right to buy the presidency.”
Indeed, Bloomberg has to date sunk in excess of $300 million of his own money into his late campaign, buying more television ad time than any other candidate and hiring so many paid staff members that some down-ticket election bids have struggled to find qualified operatives.
By contrast, Sanders has raked in almost $110 million this election cycle from contributions averaging around $18 apiece. Campaign officials told SFBay that, in addition, volunteers had knocked on more than 100,000 Bay Area doors over the course of President’s Day weekend.
National polls appear to confirm the efficacy of the campaign’s approach. According to RealClear Politics polling averages, in May of last year, former Vice President Joe Biden held a 26.8-point lead over Sanders. Now, Sanders holds a slim but widening 4.4-point lead over Biden.
In Nevada, where voters will caucus on Feb. 22, Sanders is ahead by a commanding nine points.
Jane O’Meara Sanders, the senator’s wife and longtime chief of staff, said during an interview with SFBay ahead of the rally that the campaign’s strategy was largely inspired by the couple’s activism history.
O’Meara Sanders said:
“We started when we were teenagers, listening to people, working with people, instead of coming with the idea that we had all the answers.”
She also said she thinks their established volunteer effort could prove to be a problem for newcomer Bloomberg.
O’Meara Sanders said:
“We believe in people, and we believe in collective action, and I think, I hope it’s born out in this election.”
The message and rally both seemed to attract its fair share of activists who support Sanders. Representatives from organized labor and the anti-mass incarceration movement took turns with powerful speeches at the dais.
In the audience, 26-year-old indigenous rights activist Noemi Tumgüi of Idle No More SF Bay said the senator’s appearance at Standing Rock made him her sole choice — O’Meara Sanders’ decision to protest violence against indigenous women in Minneapolis last week solidified her decision.
“Bernie is willing to provide a future for all people, including indigenous people.”
“The land, the water is not for profit.”
Sanders echoes similar refrains in his messaging.
Closing out his speech to a crowd of more than 10,000 people, Sanders said:
“Real, fundamental change takes place not from the top down, but from the bottom up.”