Over 17,000 people packed the Tacoma Dome on Monday to show their support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Leading against all other Democratic candidates in the vast majority of national polls, Sanders is the current frontrunner in the primary race. Hours before the doors opened at 4:30pm, eager supporters of all ages waited in long lines that snaked around the stadium.
Burien rapper Travis Thompson played a set as people filed into the event, followed then by performances from Tacoma soul group Stephanie Johnson & the Hidogs and Portugal. The Man.
The first Sanders endorsement was delivered by Puyallup Tribal Council chair David Bean, who emphasized support for the Green New Deal proposal and spoke about the fight against the Tacoma LNG plant. The Sacred Family Canoe Group also performed a song in honor of the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. Another one of the opening speakers was Kshama Sawant, who introduced herself to the crowd as the “socialist on the Seattle City Council.” She spoke about her efforts to bring down Amazon, and several members of her “Tax Amazon” campaign collected signatures outside the rally.
While multiple speakers passionately emphasized the necessity for Sanders’ “Medicare for All” healthcare plan, it remains a divisive issue for powerful labor unions. Recently, Nevada’s influential and progressive Culinary Workers Union declined to endorse a Democratic candidate but informed union members that Medicare for All would jeopardize their current, well-fought-for health coverage. Speaker and Council Member Teresa Mosqueda reminded the audience that despite claims from union bosses that unions are not in favor of single payer health insurance, workers actually support Medicare for All because “they don’t want to spend their whole life bargaining for healthcare at the negotiating table.”
Actor and screenwriter Tim Robbins gave his endorsement to Sanders, and implored the audience to “fill statehouses and city halls,” saying “we need to demand that we are represented in this country.”
Seattle Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who has endorsed Sanders and rallied with him in Des Moines, also took to the stage as an opening speaker.
In his crowd-stirring stump speech, Bernie called President Trump a pathological liar, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and a homophobe. He also laid into Mike Bloomberg for his history of “racist policies, like stop and frisk,” and called for his supporters to stop him from “buying the election.”
Sanders took similar aim at insurance companies, the Democratic establishment, and the military and prison industrial complexes. His points were all met with jeering, but “Democratic establishment” got some of the loudest boos from the crowd.
One thing was clear: Sanders is attempting a political revolution. He promises no more prescription medicine fees, free college and forgiven student loan debt, legalized marijuana nationwide and records of possession expunged, the banning of assault weapon sales, and comprehensive immigration reform.
Ballots are being mailed out this week and Washington’s primary is being held on March 10th.