Sanders campaign hosts huge event on eve of Illinois voting... Thousands packed the Auditorium Theater in Chicago's Loop late on March 14 to rally in support of Bernie Sanders...

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to a massive rally at Chicago's Auditorium Theater late on the night before the March 15, 2016 Illinois primary. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.Thousands of people assembled and stood for hours on Wabash Avenue under the el tracks in Chicago on Monday evening, March 14, 2016, waiting to hear Bernie Sandersand when the doors were finally opened, the Theater was packed to the rafters. When he finally came on stage after 11 pm, people were provided with an impassioned Sanders speech, which was continually interrupted by widespread applause and enthusiastic chanting.

The rally was a late addition to Sanders schedule, and was only announced yesterday, as the end of Sanders efforts to win in Illinois on March 15th. My son had gone to the anti-Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago last Friday, although he had been unable to get in, so when I heard Bernie was coming to Chicago, I invited him to go with me as a reward for his budding activism. He was excited about seeing Bernie.

The doors were opening at 8:30, but when we got there at 6:30 pm, we were already way back in line. The Chicago police had many cops there, but interestingly, they were all young officers and didnt have their robo-cop stuff on, so it was a relaxed gathering of thousands of people.

One of the popular speakers who warmed up the crowd for Bernie Sanders at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago on March 14, 2016, was Chuy Garcia. Garcia, who had forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into an April 2015 runoff in the city's mayoral race, is a strong Sanders supporter. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.The cops had set up barricades up and down Wabash Avenue, that went for a very long city block from Balbo to Congresswe eventually counted nine rows of barricades, so it was like dealing with airport security on the day before Thanksgiving. The crowd was youngpeople looked overwhelmingly of college ageand very friendly. While multiracial, it appeared predominantly white. Good mix of young women and men. (As one who had been among the youngest in demos in the early 1970s, I definitely was one of the older ones tonight.)

As one having hip problems, I was pulled out of line and seated in a section for disabled people in the front of the Auditorium: I was in row 6, which gave me a great position from which to watch the rally and, later, the speakers.

The rally started a little after 9 pm. It started with a couple of folk singers, who were good, but whose names I didnt catch. Then came one of the Staples sisters, and she and the folk singers were great.

Former national NAACP chief Ben Jealous was one of those who spoke in favor of Bernie Sanders to the Chicago Auditorium Theater crowd on March 14, 2016. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.Then began speeches. Benjamin Jealous, former head of the NAACP gave a passionate speech, and really got the crowd goingbut this was a Bernie crowd, primed for almost anything good. Another woman came from an activist group, and I didnt catch her name or the name of her organization.

Then Jesus Chuy Garcia, who had run against Mayor 1%, Rahm Emanuel, last Spring and lost in a run off, came on stage. Garcia, who has not been very visible in Chicago since his loss, was greeted very, very warmly by the crowd and proceeded to give the most fiery and enervated speech this reporter has ever seen him give.

(Sanders had come to Chicago in March 2014 to support Susan Sadlowski Garza in her Aldermanic campaign in the 10th Ward, and had been very warmly received in that conservative, steelworker-dominated ward by a mostly white and Latino crowd. Garcia also was there, supporting Garza, who ultimately won by 10 votes.)

After Chuys fired-up speech, we were put on hold, and got to listen to good music on a tape.

Sanders finally appeared after 11 pm. His voice was strained, but he was obviously happy to be back in Chicago, where hed gone to school at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, and where he had been arrested for fighting housing segregation. He gave his standard stump speech, which hes gotten down to an artI had dropped my notebook and lost it, so I couldnt take notes. The crowd kept breaking into chants, but he cut them off, so he could get through his material. (If he hadnt, wed probably still be there!)

The crowd began gathering on Wabash Ave. hours before Sanders was scheduled to speak. Unlike the March 11 Donald Trump event a mile west of the March 14 Sanders event, there wasn't even a hint of possible violence, and it was a happy group. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.Its clear that Sanders campaign has already changed electoral politics in this country: it has gotten large numbers of young people involved and excited about the political process. This will effect our political process for years into the future. But people arent waiting for the futurethey want Bernie to win, and now!

Requests to vote, and to take your friends to your polls, were made again and again. Bernie says if we get a large turnout, he will win; if we dont he wont. Its now March 15 as this is written. The polls open in Illinois at 6 am, and will stay open until 7 pm. Voting later today will also take place in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. Well soon see if Michigan was a fluke, or if it was the beginning of something quite exciting.


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