Bernie Sanders Visits Pittsburgh
By: Charlotte Goldbach for WPTS News
On Thursday, presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally at the David Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Thousands of people attended, filling the entire ballroom where the rally was held, leading to people gathering in an overflow room. Volunteers arrived at 6:30am, an hour before doors opened to the public at 7:30am, though people began lining up hours before that.
During the press conference held before the rally, union workers and leaders from the Amalgamated Transit Union, United Steel Workers, and United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America local 506 gathered in a room to talk about why they support Senator Sanders. The outsourcing of jobs because of high production and labor costs and free trade agreements were discussed the most by the speakers. When it became time for Sanders to speak, he urged for a trade union movement, claiming that current “trade agreements have been rigged.” NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994, and the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership sign in 2016, were used as examples to show the how free trade agreements harm American workers by moving jobs to other countries and to show the difference between Sanders and Democratic frontrunner, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Clinton supported NAFTA and, up until recently, also supported the TPP. Fair trade, not free trade, was the message that Sanders conveyed during the press conference.
At the actual rally that began just before 11am, the ballroom was filled to capacity. The crowd of thousands was mostly white. Males outnumbered females. College students made up the majority of the crowd. Alex Austin, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, single father, cancer survivor, and veteran, opened for Sanders. He addressed healthcare and higher education costs, pumping up the crowd. More union leaders spoke after him, but when Sanders took the stage, the crowd erupted in cheers. Then, the topic changed. Instead of talking about fair trade as he had during the press conference, he spoke about finance, both campaign and Wall Street. He criticized Clinton for using Super PACs, as his campaign does not.
Not too long into his speech, he announced that he will be releasing the transcripts for all his Wall Street speeches, so that Clinton will release hers, except he has not given any speeches on Wall Street. For almost all of the first half hour of his hour long speech, Sanders stuck to his normal rhetoric on fighting for middle class, fighting Wall Street, breaking up big banks, and his campaign being for the people. He claims that the economy is rigged against the middle class. It was only after the first half hour that he began to mention women, minorities, healthcare, climate change, and the LGBTQ+ community. A little over half an hour was spent on all of those issues, a small amount compared to the amount of time he spent discussing Wall Street and the middle class. Nonetheless, the crowd cheered strongly at every pause. He closed the rally by saying that winning cannot be done alone and that a political revolution must occur in order to create change in the United States.
The Pennsylvania primary will be held on April 26.