Bernie’s birthday bash
Sanders supporters take to the streets in honor of presidential candidate’s birthday
Ronald Reagan was 69 years old when he took office in 1980, making him the oldest U.S. president to date. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders turned 74 on Tuesday (Sept. 8), and local backers hoping the Democratic dark horse will break Reagan’s record next November celebrated by spreading the word about their favored candidate.
In an effort organized through the Facebook page North Staters for Bernie, more than two dozen Sanders supporters assembled at Chico City Plaza at 11:30 a.m. that day, gathered signs touting the man and his policies, and headed north on Broadway singing “Happy Birthday.”
One supporter, Bob Woods, stayed behind at the corner of Fourth and Main streets, holding his own sign that read, “Bernie! Equality, freedom, democracy.”
“I didn’t feel like marching because I’m about 70 years older than all those people,” Woods joked as he waved to passersby, many of whom honked to show support. “We’ve got all kinds of people out here today, and I think Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who really stirs up that kind of excitement.”
Woods has been registering voters every Saturday at the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market for the last several months, and said that most who’ve registered recently have done so specifically to support Sanders. Woods cited Sanders’ grassroots campaign style and refusal to accept corporate campaign funding as the reasons he’s supporting Sanders.
“I haven’t campaigned this hard for a candidate since George McGovern [in 1972],” Woods said. “He didn’t win, but I still believe the world would be a better place if he did.”
The bulk of the Bernie backers assembled at the corner of First and Broadway streets. As the group cheered, chanted and raised signs for passing motorists, some, like Chico State student Dylan Dewit, handed out fliers and fielded questions from curious pedestrians.
“I’m currently working one job, was working an internship, and am applying for loans to go to graduate school, and in all honesty the future looks pretty bleak under our current policies,” Dewit said. “Bernie is the only guy who’s standing up and saying we need to do things different when it comes to affordable education. He’s also focused on the stark economic inequality in our country and wants to address climate change in a positive way.”
Two of the event’s main organizers—and some of Sanders’ most fervent local supporters—are Susan Sullivan and Mona Martine, who dressed in costume for Tuesday’s rally. Sullivan, who started the 700-plus-member North Staters for Bernie Facebook page, wore a red, white and blue evening gown. Martine dressed as a computer screen monitor displaying the YouTube channel BernieSanders2016TV, partly in protest of the alleged mainstream media blackout Sanders supporters say has been in effect thus far in the campaign.
“Bernie wants to cut out the cash cow for the corporate media and overturn Citizens United, so [the media] is not giving him the coverage he deserves, and we’re out here on the streets to tell people about him,” Sullivan said.
Martine has so embraced Sanders’ grassroots campaign ethic that she’s hand-made more than 400 campaign T-shirts. She buys the shirts at thrift stores, silkscreens them herself, then trades them for donations or gives them away to supporters.
“They’re great for people who can’t afford the official campaign shirts or might not like the logo,” she said. “They’re a bit more ‘Chico.’”
North Staters for Bernie held their first public event, like many Sanders groups, on July 29, when he appeared in a live video address to hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country. About 130 people attended a viewing at the Chico Grange Hall, according to group members.
The group will be tabling most weeks at the CCFM in months to come, and have some special events planned. On Saturday, Oct. 17, members will be present at the fifth annual You Know You’re From Chico Festival, and on Thursday, Nov. 19, there will be a fundraiser for Sanders at the Blue Room Theatre centered around the work of early-1900s union agitator/ musician Joe Hill.