Photos: Bernie Rocked The Wiltern As Topless Women Canvassed Outside [NSFW]
Senator Bernie Sanders might be the most geriatric of the presidential hopefuls, but in Los Angeles last night the Vermont senator was a certified rock star.
Making an almost-impromptu stop at the Wiltern Theater, Sanders spoke to a packed house of "Berners" as the self-proclaimed democratic socialist, pitching his populist agenda of social and economic equality. There were even topless ladies! (Hence the NSFW warning.) Due to a scheduled rally in Wyoming getting snowed out, the rally was practically announced last-minute. ("It doesn't snow here," Sanders said to the Angelenos.)
Hordes were left stranded outside of the theater—whose max capacity can be stretched out to only 4,000—but he promised to return again to a much larger venue.
"We can argue whether Vermont is more progressive than California, but I feel comfortable here tonight," said Sanders to the raucous crowd. As much as the senator might feel at home among fellow progressives on the Left Coast, he faces an tough challenge against Hillary Clinton here, where he trails Clinton by 7 percent in a poll among likely Democratic primary voters. The California primary is on June 7.
Sanders stumped for his core causes of social and economic justice, environmental protection, education reform, and an overhaul of the justice system ("Jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.") He also took shots at Donald Trump, denouncing the GOP frontrunner's hateful and divisive rhetoric. He also distinguished himself from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Several times he pointed out that he was not supported by a superPAC—unlike Clinton—although several members of National Nurses United, a group that has pledged their support for Sanders and may or may not be considered a superPAC, were in the crowd and onstage. None of the speech should be unfamiliar to anybody who has been paying attention to Sanders since his campaign started, but the crowd was into it anyway.
Despite his age, Sanders has a firm grasp on the youth vote, and that was reflected in the Wiltern crowd and their apparel last night. One would be hard-pressed to find any other presidential candidate who has inspired T-shirts based on the Misfits, Black Flag, Andre the Giant Has a Posse, My Little Pony, and Alberto Korda's iconic photo of Che Guevara.
Karen Gonzalez, a 26-year-old from Downey, told LAist that she felt Sanders wasn't "bought out" by moneyed interests, and that his proposed policies would be the "most we can get" from the taxpayer's dollars. Her younger sister, Susan, turns 18 in May and was looking forward to casting her first primary vote for Sanders.
Adrian Estrada, a 20-year-old from El Monte, told LAist that he was excited to vote for Sanders in his first presidential election, saying that many in his family were undocumented immigrants and cited Sanders' call for offering a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented residents. "He's my guy!"