On Saturday, more than 25,000 people flocked to Queensbridge Park to support the presidential candidate. There were so many attendees that some had to watch from outside the park because the campaign only got a permit to allow 20,000 attendees.
Billed as a “Bernie’s Back” rally, the event and its speakers did not shy away from addressing the senator’s health.
“I’m here to tell you Bernie’s back, he’s healthy and he’s more than ready to continue his lifelong struggle for the working people of America,” said Dr. Jane Sanders.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, who announced his endorsement of Sanders just days earlier, dispelled the “tropes” that opponents have used against the candidate, including his age and health.
Moore said it’s “actually a gift” to have a 78-year-old running for president because Sanders has seen things “many of us have never seen,” such as the fall of white supremacy in Nazi Germany.
“We will benefit from his experience, wisdom, knowledge and love for the American people,” he said.
“The only heart attack we should be talking about is the one Wall Street is going to have when Bernie Sanders is president of the United States,” Moore added.
A group of New York legislators supporting Sanders, which campaign co-chair Nina Turner nicknamed “The New York Squad,” then took the stage.
The group includes Queens state senators Michael Gianaris, Jessica Ramos and James Sanders Jr., Assemblyman Ron Kim, Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal and Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar.
“With hundreds of new volunteers in Flushing and Queens, Bernie’s political revolution has excited a whole new class of political activists who are sick and tired of a system that has only served the top 1 percent of this country,” Kim said. “Together, we will win back the White House.”
Three-quarters of the original “Squad,” including Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, announced their support for Sanders immediately after the Democratic debate on October 16.
But it was the endorsement of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders Long Island City, that took center stage on Saturday.
Ocasio-Cortez shared her family’s story with the enthusiastic crowd, and spoke about her involvement as a volunteer in the Sanders campaign in 2016.
She said that grassroots campaign three years ago “fundamentally changed politics in America.”
“We have one of the best Democratic presidential primary fields in a generation,” she said. “Much of that is thanks to the work Bernie Sanders has done in his life.”
It was that campaign that catalyzed Ocasio-Cortez’s own run for Congress in 2018.
“The only reason I had any hope in launching a long-shot campaign is because Bernie Sanders proved you can run a grassroots campaign and win in an America where we almost thought it was impossible,” she said.
When Sanders finally took the stage, he announced that Ocasio-Cortez will travel with him throughout the country as part of his campaign.
“When I look at this huge crowd, I have no doubt the political revolution is going to sweep this country, sweep Donald Trump out of office, and bring the change that this country has long needed,” he said.
The senator said after receiving great medical care, he is “more ready than ever” to carry on the campaign and assume the office of the president of the United States.
“To put it bluntly, I am back,” Sanders said.
In his hour-long speech, the Democratic candidate spoke about his wide-ranging policy platform, including Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, eliminating student debt, gun control measures and more.
He asked the crowd to take a look around them, and see the racial, gender and religious diversity that reflected the “movement that we have built.”
“Find someone you don’t know, maybe somebody who doesn’t look like you,” Sanders told supporters. “My question to you is, are you willing to fight for that person, who you don’t even know, as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”