The Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) held a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) that featured The Strokes, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others on Monday, the eve of the New Hampshire primary. A line wrapped around the Whittemore Center as doors were scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m., with many people lining up much earlier in the day– some as early as 2 p.m.
Ben Nikitas, a recent UNH graduate, waited in line for the opportunity to see the band and the Vermont senator.
“I like The Strokes,” he said. “But I’d like to learn more about Bernie.”
Other students were excited for the event as well. Shannon Schollard, a sophomore at UNH, likes Bernie Sanders for his stances on a multiple of issues and, “what he’s doing for young people.”
Greg Lucina, a junior at UMass Boston, was another young person excited to see Bernie.
“As a Brazilian American,” who has felt alienated by American politics, “Bernie is the only politician I’ve found solace in,” Lucina said.
While typically leaning more conservative in his views, Lucina believes that, “in today’s day and age the kind of person you are, especially president, really matters,” and that the senator was a “good dude he could trust,” even with policy disagreements.
The rally kicked off with the New York-based band Sunflower Bean after about an hour of the crowd being funneled in to find their seats or Bernie specific merchandise. Sunflower Bean’s style is a cross between Fleetwood Mac and Ariel Pink.
“This song we learned just for tonight, just for Bernie,” lead singer and bassist Julia Cumming said as the band began The Who’s song of rebellion, “My Generation.” “That’s a bass solo for Bernie!”
Speakers began after their set. The campus outreach organizer for the campaign, Sinead O’Hara, introduced a series of speakers and supporters for Bernie Sanders and stated, “we fight because we believe health care is a right,” among other issues the senator is passionate.
The first speaker was New Hampshire’s democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky who stated, “vote like your future depends on it, ‘cause it does.”
The next speaker was national co-chair for Sander’s 2020 campaign, former Ohio senator Nina Turner.
“We need someone who’s going ham on this system,” she vibrantly stated in reference to wall street, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. She believed this was possible since this campaign is the first one made up of, “multi-generational, multi-gender, and multi-ethnic conscious minded people.” She emphasized that, “we need a champion to who says he’ll go to war with white supremacy,” and that champion she declared was Bernie Sanders.
Following Nina Turner were the New Hampshire state co-chairs State Representative Renny Cushing and former State Representative Mindi Messmer who brought up climate change and the death penalty. Rep. Cushing also mentioned that on day one of a Bernie Sanders administration he will end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
Next up was Cynthia Nixon, who is a former New York democratic gubernatorial candidate and television star.
“I’m all in for Bernie Sanders,” she announced to loud cheers from the audience. She received a different reaction when she mentioned her support four years ago for Hillary Clinton. Loud booing was stopped when she stated, “oh no, we’re not going to do that here.”
Nixon touched on the income inequality platform that Bernie Sanders is running on to correct.
“We’ve been making do with crumbs. I’m done with these crumbs; I want the whole pie,” Nixon said. She finished off here speech with the words, “we need a hero and that’s Bernie Sanders.”
Chants of “Bernie” filled the arena as philosopher and social activist Dr. Cornell West took to the stage.
His speech caused constant cheers and through the cacophony of enthusiastic support from the crowd stated that, “Bernie Sanders has got the integrity, the courage, and the vision to bring us together.”
The penultimate speaker was Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). She touted Bernie’s lifelong and consistent progressive political beliefs and asked the crowd, “who put them en vogue?”
“It’s going to be a movement of Americans that beat Donald Trump,” and that if you are someone who has not been touched negatively by immigration laws, high cost-prescription drugs, racism, the criminal justice system or financial inequality to help those who have encountered such hardships, she said. “As someone who’s been told to move back, I say move forward.”
AOC ended her speech and greeted Bernie Sanders onto the stage. He was followed on stage by his wife and immediate family.
“In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people here tonight,” Sanders said, greeting the crowd. After his family left the stage, Sanders talked about his potential republican rival, President Donald Trump. A man Sanders called “racist, sexist, and a religious bigot,” and finished this statement with, “and those are his nice qualities.”
Sanders braced the crowd and asked, “are you ready for a radical position?” He went on to discuss his stance on climate change and that the American people need to, “fight our common enemy, which is climate change.” Sanders went on to discuss immigration and that under his administration, “federal agents will never snatch babies away from their mother’s arms.” Under healthcare Sanders touted his strong belief that, “women must be able to control their own bodies, not the government. End of discussion.”
Sanders hit his main talking points on income inequality, prescription drug cost and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. He ended his speech by emphasizing that we need to, “defeat the most dangerous American president,” and that if, “we are prepared to stand together,” then that goal was reachable.
The Strokes started their concert by taking a photo with Sanders and began their set with the Talking Heads’ song, “Burning Down the House.” The next song was “One Way Trigger” off of their latest album “80’s Comedown Machine,” and crowd-surfers picked up the activity during a new song.
“This is a beautiful thing,” lead singer Julian Casablancas said. Afterwards, they played their first major hit, “Last Night.” During this song a wave of audience members crushed the barricade in front of the stage.
Now, the crowd was directly at the stage. “It’s like I’m at a Bob Dylan concert,” Casablancas said as he high-fived and grabbed hands as the band started “Hard to Explain.” They played “The Modern Age,” also off of their first album, “Is This It.”
After their performance of “Ize of the World,” the band was weary with the lights that had been turned on in the arena after the barricade broke. Casablancas mentioned he needed his sunglasses and said, “you should see my house, it’s very dark… like a vampire. The Strokes played “The End Has No End,” and then Casablancas asked, “turn off the lights. Do it.”
They played “You Only Live Once,” and again pleaded to have the lights turned off. “Are you here to see live music or a video?” The band left the stage as an anime-style music video played on the giant screen overhead for one of their songs.
After this brief intermission Casablancas stated that they were only going to perform one more song since the lights would not be turned off. It was a, “safety thing, with the cops,” he said as the band went into their last song, “New York City Cops.” This was a song that was censored and removed from their first album after Sept. 11. During the song, the crowd rushed onto the stage and was dancing along with the band.
“It’s cliché but it’s the fight against the system,” Nate Brady, a La Salle University student who travelled from Newton, Massachusetts for the event, said in reference to the ending of the rally. “That’s what Bernie’s trying to do.”