ASU student hosts gathering to support Bernie Sanders

More than 100 people gathered at the Tempe Knights of Pythias hall to support Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in an event organized by an ASU student.

The meeting, organized by Materials Science and Engineering major Will Bowman, drew a diverse crowd ranging from ardent Sanders supporters to more neutral citizens simply looking to stay informed.

“(Sanders) is the only candidate genuinely interested in getting money out of the political system right now, and I think when it comes to politicians, you have to judge them based on their actions and their record, and I think that pretty much weeds out everybody else,” Bowman said.

Bowman said that everyone, especially young people and students, owe it to themselves to hear what Sanders has to say.

“There’s an issue that everyone can be effected by in a positive way,” he said. “If (this grassroots movement) doesn’t work, Bernie can’t win. He’s not going to have the TV commercials. He’s not going to have the reach.”

Bowman said that if Sanders can get into the general election, he will be optimistic that Sanders will win.

“It’s about doing the work, but I am optimistic enough to put in the time,” he said. “I’m a student so I have to carve out the time, but I think I’m as dedicated as people who have the time, so I’ll put in as much as I can.”

Originally the meeting was intended for a small handful of supporters, but as interest grew, Bowman collaborated with another local organizer to merge two meetings that were among over 3,300 like it held across the country.

Political activist Dan O’Neal said he was truly astounded with the interest Sanders has generated so far, saying “it is a telling point when I walk into a room like this and know five people, because that means it's going very deep. . .it's resonating with people."

O’Neal said that while Sanders has gained a lot of support, there is still a sense of pessimism among his supporters that he will not be able to win a campaign.

"We need to dispel that notion. . .we need to destroy that notion,” O’Neal said. “With 3000 organizations, this is way more than Barack Obama had in 2007."

Meeting co-organizer Gail Martelli agreed that Sanders has generated quite a bit of support.

"I've been involved in politics for 30 years and I've got a feeling about this thing,” she said. “When Bernie talked at the Convention Center he asked us to reach out to our republican friends and family who are perhaps voting against their own interest. . . I have done that and I am shocked at the response I am getting. People of every party are sick of the money in politics."

ASU graduate student Margot Thomas who is part of the organization “AZ students for Bernie” said she supports Sanders because he discusses issues that no other candidates are talking about.

“He’s saying things that need to be said,” Thomas said. “The bonus is that his record backs it up. He probably wouldn’t be able to tell it like it is if it weren’t for the fact that he is not apart of the corporate establishment.”

Thomas said that by going against the grain, Sanders is affecting the way citizens and politicians view campaigns.

“I’m hoping that long term, Bernie will energize people and get them active,” she said. “People are social creatures, that connection, it’s the way we’re built. If you’re going to talk about the stuff the mainstream isn’t talking about, you’re going to need that grassroots to get it out there.”

The crowd at this grassroots gathering all came together to watch a live-streamed video of Sanders discussing the main points of his political platform, including topics such as free public college education, universal medical insurance, comprehensive immigration reform, and global warming and energy efficiency in accompaniment to his main point, which is getting big money out of politics and embracing the working class.

"I believe, from the bottom of my heart, in a vibrant democracy,” Sanders said. “. . .If you want to run for office, I want you to be able to run for office without having to beg wealthy people for campaign contributions."

Making a reference to the controversy surrounding Sandra Bland, Sanders also briefly addressed the need for significant criminal justice reform and the issue of racism in law enforcement, which he has been criticized for neglecting in recent past.

Sanders’ various points elicited cheers from those gathered, and many expressed interest in becoming further involved in his grassroots campaign.

"The most important idea. . .is that no president can do it all.” Sanders said. “The only way we can transform America. . .is by putting together an unprecedentedly strong grassroots movement. What I call a political revolution."

Sanders closed by encouraging all his supporters to get involved, saying “This is not easy stuff, but I believe that when people come together, when people are united, there is nothing that can stop us."

Reach the reporter at or follow @isabella_m_cast on twitter 

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