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Sanders draws big crowd, including Claremont residents

The news hit the day before the event, when people on Bernie Sanders’ email list were notified that the presidential candidate would be speaking at Ganesha High School the evening of Thursday, May 26.

Word spread via social media and a local newspaper. By 5:30 p.m., a crowd of 2,000 had gathered at the Pomona campus, filling the bleachers to capacity and spilling onto the artificial turf of the football field.

For a number of Claremonters, including Catherine Caporale and Ron Mittino, it was a chance to see the presidential hopeful in a local venue.

Unlike most of the throng, Ms. Caporale, who came on her own to the rally, isn’t a hardcore supporter but finds Mr. Sanders interesting.

“I was thinking Hillary, but I’m here today. I wanted to learn more about the issues,” she said.

Mr. Sanders’ platform, which he has characterized as no less than a political revolution, is centered on measures he says will help low-income Americans and the struggling middle class. These include ensuring free healthcare as a human right and a free college education for any young person willing to put in the work. 

“University for all is what excites me the most,” Ms. Caporale said.

Mr. Mittino, by contrast, has been “feeling the Bern” since the beginning of Mr. Sanders’ candidacy. 

“I like Bernie because he clearly presents ideas that can make America sane again,” Mr. Mittino said. “Why I came to the rally is I find his candidacy to be historic in nature, and I wanted to see it in person.”

With attendance only somewhat larger than that for a homecoming game, participants were pleased to find that parking was available in the Ganesha High School lot right up to the start of the event. Some entrepreneurial-minded vendors were making a neat profit selling handmade Bernie Sanders T-shirts and buttons.

Inside the venue the atmosphere was laid-back, with kids running around on the turf. The enthusiasm was palpable, however, when Mr. Sanders took to the podium, his white hair and Brooklyn accent recognizable even from the nosebleed seats.

His message was the same as it has been in debates and rallies held across the United States, including stops at a slew of California cities in the days leading up to the June 7 primary: Vista, Riverside, San Bernardino, Cathedral City, Lancaster, Santa Maria and Oakland.

In a nutshell, Mr. Sanders says the average American has been robbed of the American dream by stagnant wages and rising costs for things like healthcare, medication and education. Mr. Sanders claims the billionaire class has been allowed to ship jobs and trades overseas while shirking a fair share of taxes, rather than letting the wealth trickle down.

As he laments at each appearance and on his website, “Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated today goes to the top one percent. The top one-tenth of one percent owns as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent.”

A week after the rally, Mr. Mittino spoke about the Pomona stop.

“The crowd looked multi-racial, multi-cultural. And by a show of hands, when he was asking who had no health insurance and who had health insurance with huge deductibles, it seemed to be middle class and below,” he said. “That I thought was important, that show of hands.”

It isn’t a sure bet that Ms. Caporale will cast her vote for Mr. Sanders, but she was glad she turned out.

“After the rally I was thinking that I really liked what Bernie added about joining the rest of the world on needing more mental health options, fighting climate change and organizing health care, too,” she said. “He seemed so down-to-earth, and very authentic. I feel that he wouldn’t be swayed by money.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com