Between fifty and sixty people marched down Michigan Avenue and through the downtown Kalamazoo Mall the evening of Friday, March 4th, carrying posters, banners and signs promoting presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D, Vermont). As they walked, they could be heard chanting support for the candidate, as well as information for Kalamazoo voters.
Wall Street got bailed out! Main Street got SOLD out!
Who do we want? Bernie! When do we vote? March 8th!
According to Kristin Grinwis, a Kalamazoo supporter who organized the walk, sharing information about the March 8th Michigan primary was a key aim of the event.
“I’ve been working with Ben [the Kalamazoo Sanders campaign organizer] at the Kalamazoo office. I knew Art Hop was going on and knew we needed to get out the vote. Several people I talked to while canvassing for Bernie didn’t even know the Michigan primary was March 8th, so we wanted to raise awareness,” said Grinwis.
According to michigan.gov, a record approximately 1.5 million people turned out to vote in the 2012 Michigan Primary–but that record breaking number was a mere 19 percent of Michigan’s voting-age population. So, it’s no wonder that each and every campaign is focused on the simple goal of getting people out of their houses and into to their polling places.
Grinwis expressed her excitement at the march’s large turnout.
“The whole thing came together in about 24 hours. I made the event around 6 p.m. the night before, and I think it turned out better than we could have hoped! It’s been fantastic,” said Grinwis.
Indeed, the mood was electric among the crowd. The group shouted, “Feel the Bern!” as they walked down the Kalamazoo Mall, momentarily holding up traffic, and huge cheers rose up every time a car honked its support or a passerby grabbed a sign and joined the throng.
As people dined in local restaurants or shopped at local galleries, they looked out to see Kalamazoo resident Adam Roth leading the crowd, walking at the front of the procession and starting new cheers. His passion for the candidate was clear as he organized the movements of the group.
“When I found out about Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision that allows huge corporations to make unlimited donations to public officials and politicians, I was incredibly bothered by that because I felt like my voice had been taken away. When I found out about Bernie Sanders, and the extent to which he opposed that, I got really excited,” said Roth, looking out into the crowd. “That’s when I knew I had to get involved.”
Indeed, much of the enthusiasm for the longtime Senator comes from the fact he doesn’t have a Super PAC– organizations, which, according to OpenSecrets: a Center for Responsive Politics, “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.”
The Sanders campaign is instead funded by millions of small-dollar individual donations, at an average of $27 apiece.
This isn’t the first time a city has joined together in what Sanders himself calls “the political revolution.” On January 24th, in what US Uncut reported as “the first-ever nationwide March for a presidential candidate,” people in more than 35 cities took to the streets to voice their support for the campaign. In Chicago, Portland, and Boston, each city’s march drew over 1,000 people; an amazing feat, despite less-than-stellar media coverage of the events.
“That’s what the political revolution is about,” said Roth, “Getting people involved, getting people passionate, and giving everybody a voice.” Roth also encouraged supporters to volunteer, saying “everyone needs to take part and be involved.”
Anyone who wishes to offer their time can go to berniesanders.com to find out how to make phone calls and canvass in their area or visit the Sanders campaign office in Kalamazoo at 4038 N Westnedge.
As the Kalamazoo crowd waved signs reading “future voters for Bernie,” “Bernie Sanders: not for sale,” “join the political revolution,” “a future to believe in,” “finally, a reason to vote,” and of course, the unofficial tagline of the campaign, “Feel The Bern,” Kalamazoo resident Scott Spink offered his thoughts.
“I’ve followed Bernie through the years, and I think he’s always fought for the people. He’s fighting against the media, he’s fighting against this establishment party that’s trying to push him out, but he’s been so consistent in his message for his whole life,” said Spink.
Many of the attendees echoed this sentiment, regarding the reliability of Sanders’ politics.
“I think it’s gotta come back to the people,” said Spink, “and Bernie’s got that. He’s always had that.”