After the Occupy movement died down, I hadn’t had many opportunities to shoot political events, so when I heard Bernie Sanders was coming to town I jumped at the chance. The rally wasn’t in a stadium or other large venue like most of his rallies, but Ogawa Plaza, in front of Oakland City Hall, was about as symbolic of a place as he could pick in this area. Just in recent memory it was the base for Occupy Oakland, Oscar Grant demonstrations, and various other protests, both violent and peaceful.
I showed up right when the gates opened, and line to get in was supposedly 17 blocks long! People started coming in, but it would still be a few hours until showtime so there was a lot of waiting around.
Luckily there was some live music to keep us entertained. The musicians also had heartwarming stories and tales of struggle and triumph to tell the crowd.
Finally it was time for the opening speeches.
Former Berkeley mayor Gus Newport wowed the audience with his stories of helping Bernie’s political campaigns in Vermont decades ago.
Next Danny Glover fired up the crowd with such lines as “I’ve always had to vote for the lesser of two evils, but not anymore!”
Finally former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich came out to hype the crown into a fevered pitch and introduce the man they’d all been waiting for.
Bernie himself came out the front door of City Hall with no fanfare save the massive roar of cheering from the tens of thousands of people in attendance.
They cheered when they couldn’t even see him, and when he came into full view the sound was deafening.
They really love him a lot.
The first thing Bernie did was ask if he got the right hat. He then asked if everyone would vote for him if he wore the hat. They all cheered again and he put the hat on for a brief second.
The scene was pretty amazing. What a backdrop!
Bernie got right into his speech. He covered all the usual topics, starting with his long string of primary victories and how winning in California would be a massive boost.
He then stressed that in recent national polls, he’s consistently beating Donald Trump by bigger margins than Hillary Clinton, if Clinton even wins at all.
Some animal rights protesters tried to rush the stage, but they got caught pretty easily.
Bernie then covered the minimum wage, healthcare, LBGT issues, police corruption, political corruption, and the massive upward transfer of wealth perpetrated by Wall Street and the 1%. He was proud that his campaign did not have, and did not want, a super PAC.
The crowd was definitely feeling the bern.
Of course he touched on making public colleges and universities tuition-free. Citing crippling student debt, Bernie asked, “Why in God’s name are we punishing people for getting an education? We should be rewarding them!”
There were countless groups represented at the rally. Veterans, nurses, teachers, students, and various blue collar workers; whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans; Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists; just to name a few.
Bernie doesn’t care what kind of person you are. He wants you to be able to go about your business without interference.
He talked about global warming and made fun of Donald Trump’s claim that it’s a hoax. He talked about runaway military spending while our own homeless are dying in the streets.
He talked about legalizing marijuana and treating drug addiction as a mental health issue instead of a criminal issue, which would drastically reduce the number of Americans behind bars. He also talked about dismantling the private prison industry entirely.
The crowd ate it up.
The rally wound down right as the shadow fully covered the plaza.
Some lucky front-row fans clamored to shake hands with Bernie.
And Bernie was genuinely glad to oblige.