Continuing to draw large crowds, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke out about various forms of inequality before more than 20,000 supporters Saturday at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Supporters filled the space to capacity, leaving a crowd outside on the adjacent Lawn on D. The rally is the third largest Sanders has hosted, behind those in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, which both took place in August.
“I want you to think not small but big,” Sanders said to the crowd. “This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and I want you to think about all that we can we accomplish … [we can] create a nation where everybody no matter their race, religion, disability or sexual orientation realizes the full promise of equality is our birth right as Americans.”
Climate change activist Bill McKibben, National Nurses United Co-President Karen Higgins, Boston Carmen’s Union President Jimmy O’Brien and University of Massachusetts Boston nursing student Jillian Brelsford addressed the crowd before Sanders took the stage.
Sanders called income inequality “grotesque” and the worst it has been since 1928. To fight that, he proposed addressing issues including unemployment and pay equity.
“Wages in America are just too damn low,” Sanders said. “ … That is why we have got to realize that the minimum wage is a starvation wage. That minimum wage has got to be raised to $15 an hour. It would not be a left wing extremist idea to say to someone that works 40 hours a week, that that person should not live in poverty.”
Members of the crowd waved “Bernie 2016” signs and a group of eight stood together and held up the letters “B 4 Bernie,” or Boston for Bernie. The crowd responded to many of Sanders’ remarks by cheering or booing.
Sanders offered support to those affected by the Friday shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and spoke about how stricter gun laws need to be enacted to prevent similar acts of violence.
“Guns should not be in the hands of people who should not have them,” Sanders said. “We already have a system of background checks that needs to be strengthened. Gun violence is a result of a so called ‘gun show loophole.’ Gun dealers are not licensed and sell weapons and avoid instant background checks. That has got to stop.”
Reforms to the criminal justice system also need to be made, Sanders said, to continue to address institutionalized racism.
Sanders said family values, as members of the Republican Party see them, do not support women’s right to make decisions about their bodies and gay individuals’ choice to marry.
“To conservatives and pundits the government should not be involved in our lives. Give me a break,” Sanders said. “… I have four kids, seven grandchildren and I’ve been married for 27 years. We believe in family values.”
Regarding immigration, Sanders said people should be given support and a path to citizenship. A comment made by Republican candidate Donald Trump about Mexican immigrants being “rapists” and “murderers” will not be tolerated, Sanders said.
Political participation is an issue especially for young adults, people of color and the working class, Sanders said, because getting people to vote is one way to bolster democracy.
“When we increase the voter turnout, it ain’t gonna be contested,” Sanders said. “We’re going to win hands down.”
Approximately 25 percent of people said they would vote for Sanders in the democratic primary, second behind former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has 46 percent, according to a Friday poll from Reuters and Ipsos.
Clinton stopped in Boston Thursday to speak with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey about drug addiction, The Daily Free Press reported.
Sanders ended his remarks by welcoming people to “the political revolution,” and walked off stage to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” He shook hands with members of the crowd and later went outside on the lawn to speak with those who did not make it inside.
Several attendees said they were impressed with Sanders’ ideas and they will continue to support him.
Grove Harris, 57, of Cambridge, said income inequality needs to be addressed and Sanders is the candidate who will do it.
“His values are in the right place,” she said. “He is practical about economic change and has got the big picture square in mind.”
Nadia Noormohamed, 22, is a student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and said she looks forward to seeing youth participate in the primary vote.
“If he can win the primary then he can win the election,” she said. “It’s not just about coming to rallies and posting on social media. It’s about getting out the vote.”
Maura Embler, 49, of Woburn, attended with her family and said she saw Sanders speak in Washington before he announced his candidacy for president.
“I will support him at the primary with my vote,” she said. “I’ll continue to spread the word. It’s exciting because I have been waiting my whole life for someone who is as well spoken as him. I hope he can get past the primaries.”