Sen. Sanders at Concord's Labor Day rally: 'Perilous' times call for all 'fight back'
CONCORD — Independent senator and Vermonter Bernie Sanders made a campaign-like swing into New Hampshire on Monday, making an appearance at a Manchester breakfast event and Concord rally on Labor Day.
Sanders, a candidate in the last presidential election, served up his message of inclusion, equality and civil rights to people spread out on the grass at Rollins Park in Concord.
Sanders spoke at two events in New Hampshire ahead of two planned appearances in his home state of Vermont Monday. The Concord rally was put on by the group Rights and Democracy.
RAD member Nikki Casey, of Manchester, said the rally was about wrapping up their summer campaign, dedicated to “trans rights, the LGBT community, working families, the environment, public education. We’re just here as a collective working on these issues to get people involved in a grass-roots level and trying to win elections.”
“What we stand for is pretty much the platform for that Bernie’s been standing for his entire career,” she said.
People began gathering in a semicircle in the middle of the park early Monday morning.
Wearing a flag of Argentina like a cape, Ludy Makovy, of Concord, said, “we’re all supporting the melting pot that is America.”
"He’s so inspirational,” said Makovy. “He gets me fired up about politics. It’s that voice we need.”
“Bernie’s loud, and stuck with everything he’s said. He’s very direct. We like that.”
Her friend Matt Eisenstadter donned an Israeli flag.
“We missed a chance to see him earlier last year," Eisenstadter said. "This is a chance we could finally see Bernie. I feel like we have to step up and make ourselves heard.”
About midday, Sanders was preceded by attorney and executive councilor Andrew Volinsky, who rallied the blossoming crowd on issues including transgender rights and bringing up the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“If you’re working on any of these issues, stand up now and give yourselves a hand," Volinsky said. "The only way we’re going to make a difference on any of these issues is if we work together. We’ve learned how to resist. We’re resisting really well.”
True to those themes and what he called a “progressive agenda,” Sanders took to a small podium to an enthusiastic crowd, many of whom had waited hours to see him and hear him speak. Sanders wide-ranging message included the topics of health care, climate change and minimum wage.
On the subject of big energy companies, Sanders said, “our job is to tell that industry their short-term profits are not more important than the future of our planet. Let’s stand up to the fossil fuel industry.”
Closer to home, the subject of opioid addiction, he called for the reformation of the criminal justice system.
“People who are addicted should not be seen as criminals,” he said. “They need treatment. We have got to end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other major country on earth.”
He called on people to “keep our eyes on the prize,” with elements of that prize being the creation of “an economy that works for all” and ending “the absurd level of income and wealth inequality.”
In a nod to trade unions at the Labor Day event, Sanders said, "when people come together and stand up together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish."
Sanders made pointed remarks toward President Donald Trump during his lengthy speech.
"The times are perilous. All of us need to jump in and fight back," Sanders said.
Sanders remarks were true to those made during his presidential drive to the White House, and those in the crowd were not blind to the Concord event perhaps being linked to potential posturing for 2020 by the independent senator.
“I would like to think so, but he’s been pretty stern on the fact he doesn’t know if he’s running yet,” Casey said of any possible run.
Looking ahead to the next presidential election and whether Sanders would make a run, Eisenstadter said, “we’ll see. It’s still early, I think there’s a groundswell of people getting interested in politics. I didn’t care until I found that ignorance won. Now I want to take the power back I guess.”