Thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters filled Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre late Monday as the Democratic presidential candidate worked to keep up a huge wave of momentum in the state once thought impossible to win.
“It looks to me like Chicago and Illinois are ready for a political revolution and that is what we are going to see tomorrow,” the Vermont senator said to explosive cheers at the historic theater, where about 3,900 supporters made it inside.
He almost immediately spoke of the Monday night shooting that injured three Chicago Police officers, which happened as the crowd waited for Sanders.
“If elected president, I will do everything that I can. This is not easy stuff. But the violence, the violence that we all see, hundreds of people a year being killed in this city. . . . We have got to come together and end this outrageous level of violence,” Sanders said to cheers.
Sanders touched upon the nerves of the city, speaking of the closing of Chicago Public Schools and what he called the city’s need for change.
“We are in a moment in history where we need fundamental change. It is not acceptable that schools in Chicago get shut down while we give tax breaks to billionaires,” Sanders said.
He worked to discredit his opponent, Hillary Clinton, citing their differences in views on the war in Iraq, the death penalty and on trade policy while also taking a swipe at Clinton for not publicly releasing transcripts of her paid speeches.
And he vowed to defeat Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump should he win, saying he’d have a better chance at beating Trump than Clinton would.
“We will defeat Donald Trump, because the American people know that bringing our people together . . . always trumps dividing us up,” Sanders said. “We will defeat Trump because the American people understand that communities helping each other always trumps selfishness. And the American people will defeat Trump because we understand that every religion on earth, whether its Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism. . . . At the end of the day love trumps hatred.”
Sanders is behind in the delegate count, but recent polls show he is closing the gap in Illinois with Clinton, who was born in Chicago and raised in north suburban Park Ridge.
The Sanders rally was in deep contrast to Trump’s canceled rally at the UIC Pavilion on Friday night, where Trump supporters and protesters clashed. At Sanders’ election eve rally, supporters held hands and sang songs. There was no sign of protests inside the auditorium, as some had speculated.
Sanders’ campaign has been working to link Clinton with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The campaign began airing ads criticizing Illinois’ political climate last week. One ad mentions the death of Laquan McDonald, while another features the staunchest Emanuel critic, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who lost the mayoral race to Emanuel.
Garcia, one of Sanders’ major surrogates, riled up the crowd about 45 minutes before Sanders arrived. The Vermont senator was on the last of four campaign stops in four different states on the eve of the election. His raspy voice showed all the speaking he had done for the day.
“The Chicago City Council, they’re all worried tonight and they should be worried,” Garcia said to cheers.
Bernie Sanders’ supporters, including young children, wait outside before the rally Monday night. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times