Bernie Sanders appealed to thousands gathered at a park along the East River Monday night to go to the polls Tuesday, saying it will take high voter turnout to propel him to victory in the Democratic presidential primary.
“Tomorrow, let us all do everything we can to make sure that New York State has the largest turnout in a Democratic primary in its history,” Sanders said to an enthusiastic but smaller-than-usual crowd of supporters at Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City, Queens. “Tomorrow, New York state can help take this country a giant step forward toward the political revolution.”
With the help of several celebrities who warmed up the crowd before his appearance, the U.S. senator from Vermont railed against a now-familiar list of targets: Wall Street, major corporations and rival Hillary Clinton for pocketing donations from both.
“I say to corporate America, ‘Get nervous if Bernie Sanders is elected president,’ ” said Sanders, with Manhattan’s towering skyline across the East River serving as a backdrop. “They will become good corporate citizens whether they like it or not.”
The crowd, estimated at about 5,000, paled in comparison to what his campaign tallied at more than 28,000 in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Sunday and 27,000 in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park last week. Still, they clung to Sanders’ every word Monday night. Supporters hooted in agreement with his wide-ranging points on the country’s “rigged economy,” its broken criminal justice system and the need to protect the environment.
For Sanders — trailing Clinton in polls of voters and in pledged delegates — it was yet another gathering that felt more like a music festival than a presidential campaign rally. Supporters of all ages packed the area in front of the stage to be near him. A field farther back never filled up, allowing attendees room to lounge on picnic blankets and children to romp and run.
Speaker after speaker emphasized that Sanders must have support at the ballot box — not just at his rallies.
“Please, God, do it,” said Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio, in an impassioned plea for people to vote Tuesday. The Brooklyn-based indie rock band performed several songs as the crowd swayed.
Actor Connor Paolo, known for his role in “Gossip Girl,” also underscored the importance of voting. “We need to stand in line and we need to stay in line,” he said.
The rally capped a frenzied day of stumping for Sanders that included stops in the Bronx, along Arthur Avenue and at a public housing complex in Fordham Heights, and in Queens, for a tour of Jackson Heights businesses and a walk around Astoria.
He earned the endorsement Monday of City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), who grew up in public housing.
Sanders began his day by thanking striking Communications Workers of America union members in midtown Manhattan for standing up to “corporate greed.” Thousands were marching and picketing Verizon over failed contract talks.
“We will not tolerate large profitable corporations sending jobs to low-wage countries, throwing American workers out on the street,” he said. Dozens of red shirt-clad CWA members later attended the evening rally to support Sanders, chanting, “We love Bernie!”
Tuesday’s primary is a chance to shake up what Sanders supporter Ludis Mergins, 40, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, said is a primary system controlled by establishment Democrats.
Mergins said he wants the thousands of rally attendees to equate to thousands of votes.
“I hope all these people are registered,” he said. “Nothing’s certain. I’ve been volunteering and canvassing so I can say ‘we.’ We can’t take anything for granted.”