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From Left to Right: Devan Rodríguez, Tito Rodríguez-Rivera and Ricardo Rivera from N.J. waited all afternoon to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at Temple University. Photo: Martín Martínez/AL DÍA News
From Left to Right: Devan Rodríguez, Tito Rodríguez-Rivera and Ricardo Rivera from N.J. waited all afternoon to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at Temple University. Photo: Martín Martínez/AL DÍA News

Waiting in line for Sanders: More than just white college students

In the myriad of young college students waiting to hear Bernie Sanders speak on April 6, more than a few faces stood out.

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Even after waiting in line for two hours, Abigail Figueroa said she was glad she got a chance to hear from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. She plans to vote for him in Pennsylvania’s primary election at the end of the month.

“He’s really the only candidate that is talking about the things that are concerning me,” she said. “Income inequality, education, I connect with what he’s saying.”

Last Wednesday, about 10,200 people gathered at The Liacouras Center at Temple University to hear the Vermont senator speak. The appearance was part of several he made in Philadelphia last week.

Before the rally, Sanders visited with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board and held a town hall meeting at the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in South Philly. The next day, he spoke before the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention. His rival Hillary Clinton spoke at the same convention the day before.

The rally itself saw the Liacouras Center filled to capacity and forced the candidate to give a smaller speech to an overflow crowd before heading to that evening's main event. The makeup of those waiting in line to hear Sanders speak was not necessarily homogenous but it was not hard to notice that a majority of the crowd were young college-aged students.

However, there were families present. Parents or grandparents were seen waiting in line with their children in the myriad of young faces. The line to get into the venue went around the block and down Broad Street for a few blocks. Some waited in line all day or all afternoon like Figueroa, who brought her young daughter with her.

“It’s a concern you know,” she said. “I’m a single mom and I’m going to have to start thinking about getting my daughter through school and college. With my current job and salary, I don’t know.”

Waiting for an entire afternoon is not easy for Figueroa or her friend Shauna Dugan. Dugan is also a single mom and she also brought her children with her. Dugan said she feels like Sanders has the right idea about how to help poor communities like the ones in Philadelphia.

“His words and maybe the way he can reach out to public officials, I feel will affect us on a local level too,” said Dugan. “It will make us feel like we can take care of our issues. It will make us feel like we can clean up our neighborhoods. We can help the build up the schools.”

Spending even a longer time in line was Ricardo Rivera from Oakland, N.J. He was seen walking around with a Puerto Rican flag. He had been in line since 1 p.m. Rivera said he was attracted to Sanders by his genuine nature. He said Sanders is not afraid to talk about the real issues facing the country.

“Income inequality is the number one issue for me,” said Rivera. “I come from a very poor part of the country. Camden, New Jersey originally. I have since moved from there but there is still a lot of people there. I see Bernie going to places like Baltimore and the Bronx. All these places that have the same issues in their neighborhoods and I feel like he’s the only one who’s worried about dealing with those problems.”

It was not lost on Rivera, Figueroa and Dugan (who is mixed race) that one of the criticisms Sanders has received is his apparent inability to gather the minority vote. All three said they were not concerned. Rivera even went a bit further.

“It’s all corporate media that is bringing him down,” he said. “In the end, Bernie’s got a message that we can all rally behind. It doesn’t matter if you’re White, Black, Latino or whatever. You have to listen to what the man is saying. He’s for the people.” 

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