‘March for Bernie’ Is an Occupy Wall Street Homecoming
Beside the woman wearing a Donald Trump mask and head-to-toe Barney the dinosaur costume, holding a sign constructed from cereal boxes that says, “FUCK YOU,” a man brandishing his own sign declaring “I’M ON ACID” shouts, “Look out New York City, here we come!” And with that, Saturday’s March for Bernie commences, as at least a thousand Bernie Sanders supporters pour out of Union Square, flooding Broadway on a march toward Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street.
Before Trump/Barney can explain her outfit, or her support for the Vermont senator, the space is overrun by people taking the day’s events far more seriously. “I’ve been recruiting people for the revolution since my first Bernie meet-up, in July,” explains Rachel Bernstein, a local teacher, drawing me away from the spectacle. “There were only four people there. Back then, hardly anyone in New York knew who he was.”
That’s certainly not the case today – Sanders has come a long way since July. With the Iowa caucuses just days away, a wide variety of constituencies flock to Manhattan Saturday to show support for a candidate who, over the past six months, has slowly pulled himself out of underdog status in the race for the Democratic nomination.
“This is the first election that I’m going to be able to vote in, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to vote for anyone but Bernie!” roars a young woman over a bullhorn to resounding cheers, not just from her counterparts waving #MillennialsForBernie signs, but from Sanders supporters of all ages.
“Grandmas for Bernie!” answers 70-year-old Libby Deroo. “I’m retired, but now I work full time for Bernie,” she says.
Environmentalists maintain a notable presence at the march. “I support Bernie Sanders because he supports the planet,” says Katarina Pittis, 20, who’s marching in a full-body wolf suit. “He’s one of the few politicians [who] speaks up for these issues.”
Black Lives Matter activists and other social justice seekers, including former Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis, a noted figure in the 2014 Ferguson protests, march in large numbers as well.
A common theme among the constituencies is a deep mistrust for establishment candidates – many express disenchantment with America’s two-party system through banners, chants and other means. “We feel the Democratic Party has failed us. Corporate America always has the upper hand, there’s no social mobility or access to jobs,” says Marni Halasa, a professional figure skater. Halasa has joined a group of Sanders marchers wearing Pinocchio noses, which she explains are meant to represent Hillary Clinton.