BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — When CT Progressives, a grassroots group supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, saw Hillary Clinton fans were hosting a $2,700-a-guest reception at a luxury waterfront home in Black Rock on Tuesday, they knew they had to do something.
So, with just four days to plan, they scrambled together a free rally of inspirational speeches and music in the industrial work space at Rampage Skate Shop & Skatepark Equipment in the shadow of I-95.
“I think this kind of looks like America,” said Elliott Abbotts of Milford, surveying the diverse crowd of about 50 Sanders supporters.
Organizers said they were shocked that the Clinton camp staged a pricey fundraiser in Bridgeport, where most residents can't afford such an expense.
“We knew we had to have a counterpoint to that event,” said Sarah Ganong of Stratford. “It’s about trying to educate everyone. It’s about getting involved.”
The Sanders event was held an hour after the Clinton reception, which featured former President Bill Clinton.
At the skate shop, there were brief remarks from George Mintz, president of Bridgeport’s NAACP chapter; former state Rep. Hector Diaz; and Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.
Black Rock’s own Tracy Jo & the Toads and Darian Cunning provided music.
Residents could register to vote or switch their affiliation to Democrat, if they hoped to vote in Connecticut’s Democratic primary on April 26. Voters must be registered as Democrats by Jan. 26 to qualify to vote.
Sanders fans said they appreciate their candidate’s interest in campaign finance reform and his environmental and economic policies.
“I’ve followed him in the Senate,” said Matt Matis of Stratford. “When he announced his candidacy, I jumped right on board.”
While the NAACP doesn’t endorse candidates, Mintz encouraged the younger people to get involved in politics and community building.
“You are the people who should be at the table making decisions about what kind of city you want Bridgeport to be,” he said.
Diaz spoke of his outsider status when he ran for the state legislature, winning his 130th District seat by just 17 votes. He worries about the state of the two-party system in America.
“Democrats and Republicans have merged into one group of people,” he said. “They don’t think like any of us!”
It was a theme echoed throughout the evening. But organizers noted Sanders is gaining in recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“She’s not like you and I,” Jacob Robison of Bridgeport said of Clinton. “We really have the people, even if they have the money.”
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