Bernie Sanders rallies throngs on Boston Common

Campaign pegs crowd at more than 13,000

"We are a democracy, not an oligarchy; we don’t want billionaires buying elections,” said Senator Bernie Sanders to thousands at a rally on Boston Common Saturday.
"We are a democracy, not an oligarchy; we don’t want billionaires buying elections,” said Senator Bernie Sanders to thousands at a rally on Boston Common Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Senator Bernie Sanders on Saturday rallied a massive crowd on Boston Common, where thousands of cheering supporters gave the Democratic front-runner a rock star greeting on a rival’s home turf — just days before Massachusetts and more than a dozen other states vote in Super Tuesday presidential primaries.

Sanders, 78, appearing energized as he spoke in front of a crowd his campaign pegged at more than 13,000 people, argued that the “multigenerational, multiracial” grass-roots movement he is assembling makes him the best candidate to defeat President Trump in November.

Bernie Sanders rallies in Boston
US Senator Bernie Sanders spoke during a campaign rally on Boston Common Saturday.

“Trump wants to divide us up, but we are coming together around an agenda that works for all of us, not just the one percent,” Sanders said. “We are going to defeat Donald Trump because our unprecedented grass-roots movement is not dependent on billionaires or super PACs for our funding.”


The crowd covered the Boston Common from Tremont Street to the area bordering Beacon Street. The audience held signs that read, “Bernie” over their heads, and broke into applause and cheers throughout Sanders’s 34-minute speech.

Lorrie Mello, a teaching assistant in Fall River’s public school system, traveled to the rally with her daughter, Alexandra, and sister-in-law, Alda Melo, a Somerville resident.

“I was really excited about [Sanders] four years ago,” said Mello, who calls herself a progressive Democrat. “We really need to see Trump out of office. I think Bernie’s the guy who’s going to do it.”

Ramsel Gonzalez, 27, a software engineer from Boston, said he supports Sanders’s views on issues like eliminating student debt and transforming the private health care system to Medicare for All.

“He feels like the only candidate who is working from outside the system to make change,” Gonzalez said.

Sanders rolled into Massachusetts with several polls suggesting he has a lead over his rivals for the Democratic nomination; he has shown momentum in the Democratic primary race with wins in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses — plus a near-tie with former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses.


Senator Elizabeth Warren was in South Carolina Saturday during that state’s primary election. In the South End of Boston, about 200 volunteers gathered in a campaign office with US Representative Ayanna Pressley, who is her campaign co-chairwoman, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey ahead of a get-out-the-vote effort.

Sanders’s Massachusetts appearances on Warren’s home turf — he also held a rally in Springfield Friday night that drew nearly 5,000 people at the MassMutual Center — were seen as a sign of the rivalry that has grown between the two progressive Democrats, who, at an earlier stage in the race, seemed to have something of a truce.

On Saturday, Sue Kirby, 69, of Salem, watched the growing crowds from the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial; she held a sign that read “Feel the Bern” over a stone railing.

Kirby, who supported Sanders in 2016, wishes the political relationship between Sanders and Warren was better.

“I like Elizabeth Warren too. And there was a certain point where I said either one would be great, but at this point . . . I’m solid, solid behind him,” Kirby said. “I wish she would get on board Bernie’s train.”

Akilah DeCoteau, 26, of Dorchester, said she supported Sanders in 2016 and was drawn to his antiwar stance and policies on climate change and criminal justice.


She said four years ago she admired Warren for speaking out against the use of superdelegates, but has come to question her leadership because she is now accepting help from an outside super PAC.

“She’s not leading the pack on that,” DeCoteau said. "When you have someone like Sanders who is leading, it kind of just outshines her.”

Sanders never mentioned Warren in his speech, though he noted he refused to take super PAC money for his campaign. He referenced Michael Bloomberg by name when talking about the economic differences between the nation’s rich and poor.

“We’re going to win this election because the American people are tired of a corrupt political system,” Sanders said, saying Americans are “tired of people like Mayor Bloomberg.”

"We are a democracy, not an oligarchy; we don’t want billionaires buying elections,” Sanders said.

In a statement released by Bloomberg’s campaign before Sanders’s rally, the campaign said the momentum around Bloomberg is strong and growing.

A few hours before the Sanders rally began, supporters formed lines that snaked along the common’s footpaths as they waited to enter the rally site in front of the Brewer Fountain. Among them was Kim Rines, who wore a knit Sanders campaign hat with a button that read: “No human being is illegal.”

Boston police, MBTA Transit police, and Boston park rangers were stationed in the area, and some law enforcement officials were on motorcycles.


Boston police Officer Stephen McNulty, a department spokesman, and MBTA Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan said there were no arrests related to the rally. McNulty described the scene as a large and peaceful crowd.

Sanders, a Vermont senator who wore a tan hooded coat and paced a temporary stage with a microphone in his hand, seemed taken aback by the throngs who had gathered before him.

“There are a lot of people here. Wow,” Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders speaks on Saturday to a crowd on Boston Common in front of the Massachusetts State House.
Bernie Sanders speaks on Saturday to a crowd on Boston Common in front of the Massachusetts State House.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Noel Sanders, a Watertown resident, said she supports the candidate’s housing and health care proposals.

She said his housing plans would preserve affordable housing locally in places such as East Boston and Roxbury, where neighborhoods are gentrifying, and align with her work as a project organizer at a nonprofit that seeks to keep people in their homes.

“His campaign people are reaching out, talking to friends, family — a lot of people who might actually vote in the primaries and a lot of early voting is happening,” she said.

Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the North American Indian Center of Boston, said he supported Sanders in 2016, when his campaign impressed him with an ad delivered in Native American languages.

“I think people have actually heard him campaign for the last five years and know what his platform is about," Pierite said. "There are people here that have been ready for this moment for a while now.”

Supporters rallied Saturday for Bernie Sanders on Boston Common.
Supporters rallied Saturday for Bernie Sanders on Boston Common.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Craig F. Walker of the Globe staff and correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.