Bernie Sanders: Big in Bushwick

Is Hillary ‘Feeling the Bern’ in Brooklyn?

February 4, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sen. Bernie Sanders will kick off his presidential campaign with a rally at Brooklyn College on Saturday. AP photo by John Minchillo
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On Wednesday, the Bernie Sanders campaign filed more than 80,000 petition signatures –more than ten times the minimum required — to put Bernie on the ballot in the New York State Democratic Presidential Primary on April 19.

Signatures were collected by volunteers in each of New York’s 27 Congressional Districts, including the Bushwick Berners, one of many Sanders support groups in the borough.

The Bushwick Berners are based in Councilmember Rafael Espinal’s north Brooklyn district.

“We’ve been organizing in Bushwick since July, steadily building a grassroots Bernie Sanders organization that has over 500 local supporters, primarily led by young women,” Magenna Brink, Ballot Access Director for the Bushwick Berners, said in a statement.

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“It was amazing to see such an outpouring of support from our volunteers who braved the cold and snow to gather petitions for Bernie,” she added.

On the Berners’ Facebook page, the pre-Iowa Caucus message, “Come hang out with us at Eastlands, regardless of the results, we will be drinking!” is typical. The group puts together fund-raising parties featuring bands such as Parlor Walls and Language, and organized a march in Union Square Park. Supporters are asked to bring their laptops to phone banks.

Another group, Brooklyn for Bernie, has a similar youthful “we’re all in this together” vibe. New groups seem to be popping up on a daily basis and using familiar technology tools to coordinate events and carpooling.

For Brooklynites, calling Sanders “Bernie” comes easily. Though a resident of Vermont, Sanders’ Brooklyn accent has never disappeared. A native of the borough, Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he ran track, and Brooklyn College, before taking of for the University of Chicago.

“He is 100 percent Brooklyn,” Larry Sanders, the candidate’s older brother, told the New York Times.

Sander challenged his rival Hillary Clinton to a debate in Brooklyn – an idea she rejected, even though her campaign office is in Brooklyn Heights.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, issued a pointed statement on Tuesday, saying, “We are incredibly disappointed that Secretary Clinton refuses to do a debate in New York City. Why does the Clinton campaign object to a debate in New York City? Wasn’t Secretary Clinton the senator from New York? Why is her campaign dissing the Big Apple?”

Clinton – AKA Hillary — has also racked up support in Brooklyn. Celebrities including Lena Dunham and Beyonce have declared for her, and on February 17, Bill Clinton will be attending a reception for her at the Brooklyn Bowl.

But she is “feeling the Bern,” as Mother Jones magazine puts it. Millennials tend to feel that Clinton kowtows to big money, MJ reports, and Sanders has captured the imagination of college students. A number of recent polls show Sanders winning the support of from 67 to 75 percent of college-age voters.

On Wednesday, Bernie backers gathered at City Hall for a press conference, and then marched down Broadway to hand deliver his petitions to the Board of Elections.

“This is what democracy looks like!” Councilmember Espinal said in a statement. “I can’t recall any campaign collecting this many petitions signatures through an all-volunteer army. Bernie’s message is clearly resonating with the people. It was truly inspiring to see the positive reception and support among the Latino and Black communities in Bushwick and across the city, and we’re just getting started.”

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