FAIRFAX, VA. – United States Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) held an impassioned rally on Wednesday at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, where he urged action on income disparity, the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, jail overcrowding, racial conflict, and health care among other issues. Sanders was frequently interrupted by the cheering crowd which filled up the university’s Recreational Activities Center. He also invited several young people onstage to give support before beginning his remarks.
Sanders, 74, began his speech with his signature criticism of the United States since he launched his presidential campaign. He talked about the billionaire class becoming too strong, and likened the country to an oligarchy in the way finances were being handled. Sanders repeated his anti-Trans Pacific Partnership and anti-super-PAC spending stances to the delight of the thousands who showed up at Mason.
Sanders also criticized America’s jail overcrowding. “This is the country with more prisoners than any other nation on Earth,” Sanders said. He also spoke in favor of legalizing marijuana across the country by asking support for passing a measure to remove the drug from the Schedule I list, which would allow states to decide on legalization individually.
Sanders tackled health care, where he praised Obamacare, but also said there was still room for improvement. “Here, 29 million Americans are still uninsured, and we have the highest prices for prescriptions in the world,” Sanders said. The senator also said that he favors a single-payer method using Medicare, and called for the country to rectify its stance on paid medical leave. “This is the only major nation in the world which doesn’t guarantee paid medical leave,” Sanders said.
Sanders reminded the crowd of his anti-aggression policies, and his well known vote against the deployment of troops in Iraq in spring 2003. “War should not be a first resort, but a last resort,” said Sanders. He further remarked that in 2002, as a U.S. House of Representative (I-VT) he gave a speech that warned of the dangers of military force in Iraq, though he said did not take pride in being right.
As he concluded, Sanders engaged in a rhetorical crowd interaction, asking them if they were okay with police brutality, income disparity, rising college education prices and jails being filled from drug possession. All of these points were responded to with a loud, resounding “No” from the mostly college-aged students. Following a town hall debate with the participants in the crowd, Sanders departed to a roaring, cheering group of spectators.