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Sanders greets thousands in Boston Common ahead of Mass. primary

Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of about 13,000 supporters in Boston Common Saturday afternoon, three days ahead of Super Tuesday, when Massachusetts will be one of 14 states to cast ballots in the presidential primary.

Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd of 13,000 at a rally on the Boston Common Saturday, three days before Super Tuesday. LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The rally occurred on the same day as the South Carolina primary, in which Sanders placed second — with 19.9 percent of the vote — to former Vice President Joe Biden, who took the state with 48.4 percent.

After first introducing his family members present at the event, Sanders opened his speech with direct attacks on President Donald Trump.

“We’re going to defeat Donald Trump because he is a racist, he is a sexist, he is a homophobe, he is a xenophobe, he is a religious bigot,” Sanders said, to cheers after every adjective. “And those are his better qualities.”

In the midst of a climate crisis and the coronavirus outbreak, Sanders said, the U.S. needs a president who believes in science. Trump said at a rally Friday night that the coronavirus has been politicized and is a “new hoax” Democrats are weaponizing against his presidency.

Sanders then spoke about a number of issues relevant to Boston, including affordable housing and gentrification, while indirectly criticizing Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her home state for her recent acceptance of super PAC donors.

“Our unprecedented grassroots movement is not dependent on billionaires or super PACs for our funding,” Sanders said. “We don’t have a super PAC, we don’t need a super PAC, we don’t want a super PAC. We don’t go to billionaires’ houses begging for money.”

Sanders denounced wealthy campaign contributors and promised to overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door to unlimited donations from corporations, in favor of elections funded fully by the public.

“We’re going to win this election because people are tired of a corrupt political system,” Sanders said. “We’re tired of people like Mayor Bloomberg or anybody else. We are a democracy, not an oligarchy.”

Sanders said he would focus on affordable housing, as well as efforts to alleviate the gentrification crisis in American cities. Sanders recently retweeted a Boston Business Journal story about a development project in East Boston that is excluding limited-English speakers from its review process.

“We need affordable housing for all instead of more gentrifying luxury developments for the few,” Sanders wrote in the tweet. “I stand with the longtime residents of East Boston fighting displacement from the communities they have spent generations building.”

Sanders also said he understands that climate change is not just a domestic but a global issue, and that he would work with other nations to combat it.

“I will reach out to the people in China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Africa, people all over the world and make it clear that maybe,” Sanders said, “instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we should pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.”

Shifting gears in a callout to his Republican colleagues in Congress, Sanders then said it is hypocritical for believers in limited government to want to harness government power in regulating abortion rights.

Before his speech, Sanders was introduced by state Rep. Nika Elugardo of the 15th Suffolk District, who proposed a moment of silence to honor the land on which Native American communities used to thrive.

Numerous Boston University students traveled downtown to see Sanders.

Graduate student Julian Ingham, 26, said that having moved to the U.S. from Australia, he was surprised to witness the moment of silence.

“You don’t see a whole lot of that in the United States,” Ingham said. “In Australia, all public events have recognition of indigenous people in the area. It’s a standard.”

Ingham said some long-standing debates in the U.S. are not political issues in Australia.

“Australia has its own problems, but even our right-wing politicians support the equivalent of Medicare For All,” Ingham said. “We have a right-wing government that bans guns.”

Freshman Jack Sullivan, 19, said he thinks it is important for Sanders to campaign in Massachusetts as a Democratic stronghold.

“If you are trying to win the Democratic nomination, then it doesn’t make sense to skip Massachusetts,” Sullivan siad. “I don’t think that’s a shot at Warren, I just think that’s him being smart and saying that he’s not taking any state for granted.”

In a crowd bustling with enthusiasm, junior Marco De Laforcade, 20, yelled in support as Sanders closed out his rally with his stump speech about making America work for more than the 1 percent.

“Yes!” De Laforcade said. “It never gets old.”

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