Bow is quiet at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. In the early hours of Feb. 2, an isolated parking lot across from the Hampton Inn got loud. Undeterred by illegality, morning classes, and freezing temperatures, a contingency of ardent Bernie Sanders supporters welcomed the Senator to New Hampshire.
The crowd comprised largely of campaign staffers and students gathered with a clear goal in mind. These people weren’t standing in a Chinese restaurant’s parking lot before sunrise to sneak a peek at the Senator or hear a stump speech – this rally was designed to carry the momentum built in Iowa to the first-in the-nation primary.
Bumper-sticker-clad cars bound for Bow left Durham around 1 a.m., just minutes after Sen. Sanders and Sec. Clinton’s Iowa race was called “too close to call” by most media outlets.
By 3:30 a.m., Concord’s Comfort Inn lobby was covered in Students for Bernie signs and 20-somethings napping on couches, zoning out on their phones, and almost deliriously chugging coffee. Not soon after, roughly 50 students from schools as far away as Princeton, New Jersey descended from their rooms and began echoing Sen. Sander’s message of political revolution.
“We saw it in 2008 where young people helped propel the Obama campaign and today young people are also making a huge difference in this election,” said Doug Marino, a UNH senior political science major, “Iowa showed us that Bernie carried the votes of millennials overwhelmingly and that we have a tremendous role in this election.”
Waiting for the students in Chin Yang Li’s parking lot were signs, hand-warmers, a small group of people huddled around a pick-up truck, and the promise that Sander’s plane had landed in Manchester. Twenty minutes later, the crowd had grown to well over 100.
“We don’t exactly have what you might call permission to do this, so we’re trying not to get the cops called on us,” said a campaign staffer from the back of the flatbed of the truck.
A ring of cars lined up behind the truck idled with their headlights on, illuminating the makeshift soapbox, dozens of waving signs, and the crowd’s frozen breath.
“I have my internship three hours from now… We as young students and people have a lot of power in this election and we should get as involved as possible because we are going to be the people that will be dealing with the consequences of the next president,” said Mackensie Brown, a UNH senior studying occupational therapy. “It is a visual representation of how motivated we are to go out and demonstrate for what we are passionate about.”
“[Sanders] does a really great job of trying to incorporate of what matters to young people- with student loans and college debt and making sure everyone has equal access to education,” said Shannon Alper, a junior women’s studies and psychology major from UNH. “If you care enough about something, why not get involved? This is really important. Our voices matter. You have to show your support and be that positive influence on others by having them see you there.”
At around 5:30 a.m., preceded by a bus full of reporters, Sanders arrived. Wrapped in a heavy coat, surrounded by his family, and appearing almost as exhausted as the crowd, the senator climbed onto the truck and into the next primary race.
“I can not believe it, what time is this? This is unbelievable… that you’re here at 5 o’clock in the morning. Something is wrong with you guys,” Sanders said with levity, “As you know we just got in from Iowa where we astounded the world, and now in New Hampshire, we’re going to astound the world again.”