At Saturday’s March for Bernie in Center City, it didn’t take long for the puns to start.
Led by a neon orange Jeep blasting “Burn, Baby, Burn” — or, more appropriately, “Bern, Baby, Bern” — the approximately 1,000-person crowd and their many colorful, expressive and inventive signs effectively stopped traffic in parts of Center City.
Before the 1 p.m. march in support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, supporters waited patiently in the chilly weather to listen to speakers from a variety of groups. Not all of the groups in attendance seemed like natural supporters of a self-proclaimed democratic socialist.
“It’s his consistency, his honesty and his courage that really sticks with me,” said Greg Jacobs, one of the directors of the Philadelphia branch of Veterans for Bernie. “Those are hallmarks of military thinking and military code.”
Before the march, some members of Veterans for Bernie spoke about the importance of serving one’s country — not just in wartime, but simply through voting.
For college students in attendance, jobs and education were among their top priorities. Before the rally, a senior from Temple University spoke about 15 Now, a movement for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
“I think if people had access to higher education, everything would just be easier,” said College freshman Evan Weinstein, who previously attended a Sanders rally in Philadelphia on Jan. 31.
Michael Coard, an attorney and Temple University professor lamented that “too many black people have decided to drink the Kool-Aid of the cult of the church of the Clintons,” and that this needed to change for Sanders to win.
Alternating between chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Feel the Bern,” the group set off from City Hall on Market Street, taking up the entire eastbound side of the road. After five blocks on Market Street, they circled onto Walnut Street, waving signs saying “Women for Bernie” and “Bernie walked with MLK! He stands for equality then and now!” all the way.
The group stopped at the intersection of 11th and Walnut streets, where speakers lauded Bernie’s social policies.
“[Sanders] has been a tireless advocate for the poor, minorities, working class, veterans, the elderly, LGBT,” Jacobs said.
All along that stretch of Walnut Street, bystanders engaged with the marchers. Multiple groups of people — mainly seemingly college-aged — joined the group. People in their cars seemed largely unbothered by the traffic stoppage, responding positively to one marcher’s “Honk for Bernie” sign. Shoppers and restaurant patrons stopped what they were doing and pressed themselves against the buildings’ windows, pulling out their phones to photograph the rally.
At Rittenhouse Square, the marchers turned right onto 18th Street, and then made their way back onto Market Street and into City Hall with chants of “Feel the Bern!” The group congregated again around a speaker, who implored them to sign up for mailing lists, to keep up with the Facebook groups for future rallies and, most importantly, to register to vote.
While the enthusiasm around Sanders’ candidacy was palpable during the rally, it evidently did not translate to the primary that day in South Carolina. Sanders lost by a nearly 50-point margin to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the primary, giving him a wide setback ahead of Super Tuesday this week, where 13 states and territories will cast votes for a Democratic candidate.
Supporters at the Philadelphia rally, however, were not deterred.
“I still definitely support Bernie,” said College sophomore Max Hoenig, “and it was great to see such a great turnout for the rally because it shows you that there are other, real people out there who also support Bernie. To see that support in person is very encouraging.”
Weinstein agreed. “This is what democracy is,” he said. “I haven’t felt that with any other candidate before, and so I’m excited to finally be involved in politics.”
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