U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I -Vt., speaks at a fundraiser at the Park West theater on Monday night in Chicago. | Christian K. Lee

Bernie Sanders wows the crowd at Chicago fundraiser

SHARE Bernie Sanders wows the crowd at Chicago fundraiser
SHARE Bernie Sanders wows the crowd at Chicago fundraiser

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his populist message to Chicago on Monday night, bashing the “billionaire class” while promising to fight for guaranteed universal health care and workers’ rights and to battle “institutionalized racism.”

“I don’t believe in the agenda of corporate America. I don’t believe in the agenda of the billionaire class and I don’t want their money,” he told a boisterous crowd at the Park West theater.

On his first fundraising trip to Chicago, the White House hopeful noted that about three months ago, few took his presidential campaign seriously.

“Well, a few things have happened in the last few months,” he said, noting a 28,000 turnout at a campaign rally in Portland, Oregon, and 27,000 in Los Angeles.

An hour before Sanders was set to speak, the crowd stretched east on Armitage outside the theater and north along Clark to Dickens.

Sanders described his as the “people’s campaign,” noting his average donation is about $31.

As he spoke, the crowd — many wearing “Feel the Bern” pins — shouted: “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

Sanders touched on the most traditionally popular liberal themes, praising the progress made under President Barack Obama, but promising to go much further.

“This campaign is sending a very clear message to the billionaire class: You cannot have it all,” he said. “We’re not going to allow you to get huge tax breaks when children in America go hungry. We are not going to allow you to hide billions in profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens when we have so many unmet needs in America.”

Sanders said he doesn’t want to see another video of an African-American being mistreated by the country’s few bad cops.

“Nobody will fight harder to end institutionalized racism in this country and, equally important, reform our broken criminal justice system,” Sanders said.

Attendees paid anywhere from $50 to $1,000 for Monday’s event.

Sanders has raised $15.2 million for his campaign, with about $10 million of the total coming from small donations, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Polls show Hillary Clinton with a strong lead over Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont. Sanders didn’t mention Clinton by name, but said that in at least one poll he’s leading in New Hampshire.

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