Here’s What Happened When I Crashed A Bernie Sanders Rally

Editor's note: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently hosted a last-minute rally in Los Angeles. Refinery29's Elle Neubert was in the crowd of 2,000-plus supporters who showed up to hear the Vermont senator speak. The views expressed here are her own.

When I heard a rare blip about Bernie Sanders on the local news last week, I threw my headphones down and shouted to my coworker. The amazing update wasn’t a new poll or a win in a delegate-rich state but rather our pick for president was hosting a last-minute rally later that very day in Los Angeles. Despite being home to millions of registered Democratic voters, Californians like me have largely sat on the sidelines for much of the race so far. Because our primary isn’t until June — one of the last in a long nominating process — we’ve watched the candidates battle for voters in other states for months. But now, we finally had a chance to feel part of the campaign. The tickets were free, but because of the demand, they were all reserved in a matter of hours. Although even without a ticket, I knew I still had to try to get in. After work that evening, I went straight to the rally venue, a historic theater that typically hosts stars like Garbage, Adele, and Lady Gaga. I asked at the main door if there was any way that I could get in without a ticket. The answer was no, but I wasn’t about to give up.

This year, many of us are hoping we could have a real impact on this election. And Bernie knows it.

As I walked down the long line asking people if they had tickets or were also holding out for a last-minute spot, something came over me. There were hundreds of people in front of me and they were all bursting with excitement. Chants of Sanders’ name and “Sí, se puede” filled the air. Supporters danced on the sidewalks, people signed up to volunteer for the campaign, and others registered to vote. Petitions circulated seeking to advance causes like ending the death penalty and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And there were signs everywhere. Latinos, nurses, feminists, students, veterans, all there for Sanders. They were making their political voices heard and I was overwhelmed. Viva Bernie! Making my way through the crowd, I learned that the event was now first-come-first-serve due to issues with the online ticketing process. I beelined to the end of the crowd. Walking past the people already waiting, I realized that it wasn’t just hundreds of people, but there were more than a thousand trying to get in the rally. And the elation was intensifying. Two girls were shouting “Free the nipple!” A woman with rainbow-colored hair held a sign that read “Unicorns for Bernie”. Someone was skateboarding with a life-size cutout of Sanders. I even met a homeless man who hopes that his future might also improve if the senator from Vermont is elected. It didn’t feel like we were waiting to see a politician. It felt like we were waiting for a rock star.
Photo: Michael Owen Baker/Getty Images.
After waiting for three hours, I was lucky enough to make it inside the venue, crammed side-by-side with over 2,000 other supporters. Sanders’ speech was amazing. He never slammed another candidate. He spoke to the differences. He spoke about his record. The tenets of his platform. Universal health care as a right. A college education should not result in massive debt. No one should have to work 40 hours and struggle to survive. The list goes on. While Angelenos don’t vote until June 7, California has the most delegates of any state. This year, many of us are hoping we could have a real impact on this election. And Sanders knows it. "If we win the California primary with a decent vote, we're going together to the White House," he told us, as LA Weekly reported. The crowd didn’t sit for long, we were constantly jumping to our feet, cheering, and clapping throughout. One supporter couldn’t contain himself and screamed, “I love you Bernie!” Sanders looked back at the crowd and said, “And I love all of you.” We went wild.

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