Supporters of Bernie Sanders took to the streets of downtown Charleston on Saturday afternoon to march and rally support ahead of the Feb. 27 Democratic primary. The march began at Harmon Field at noon and progressed to Marion Square, where the Southeastern Wildlife Expo is taking place this weekend. Sanders goes into the South Carolina race on the heels of a victory in the New Hampshire primary and a slim defeat in the Iowa caucus.
The crowd of about 200 supporters split into smaller groups for the march. CisternYard spoke to several marchers to get their perspective on Sanders and his momentum.
Kristen Draper, a mother of two from West Ashley, explained that her support of Sanders stems from her belief in equality. “I feel like it’s my civic duty to stand up for all of us in America, the 99 percent at least, that have been in the shadows for far too long,” she said. Draper also applauded Sanders for his integrity and consistency. She urged those that were marching to remember that their responsibility does not end at the polls; it continues long after. “I hope this revolution, and the people that are making it possible, see that.”
Amy Horowitz, also a resident of West Ashley, agreed that Sanders’ success in the general election would only be the first step in a long, collaborative process. “I think what we’re seeing right now,” she said, observing the crowd, “is the key to success for anybody who’s elected. We really need from the grassroots up, organizing and support to make changes happen at every level. No single person can do it alone.” She commented on his broad appeal and explained that his policies would benefit Americans of every age, race and gender.
TJ Lee, a young man from North Charleston, emphasized the same points about big money in politics that Bernie himself has been hammering on the campaign trail. “He’s the only candidate who hasn’t been bought off,” said Lee. “He’s looking out for Social Security and trying to make sure people don’t have to struggle quite so hard.” Houston Sorrels, a College of Charleston student from Summerville, also hit upon Sanders’ key policies regarding free college tuition, student debt forgiveness and universal healthcare. “You shouldn’t have to buy your health,” Sorrels stated. He explained that he stands with Bernie because “he speaks for us.”
Dimitri Cherny of Charleston is running for the U.S. House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 1st District, against Mark Sanford (R). “America isn’t working out for most of us,” he declared, “and when you look at all the Presidential candidates that are out there, the only person that’s talking about it is Bernie.” Cherny said that all of Sanders’ predictions regarding the economy and inequality have become true, and people are starting to wake up. “He really is starting a revolution. It’s really about us, more than it is about Bernie.”
Not everyone in Marion Square this weekend was there to support Bernie Sanders, however. Thousands descended on Charleston for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo and some, like Tommy Griffin of Virginia, were not exactly feeling the Bern. “He’s a proclaimed socialist,” said Griffin. “I’m for capitalism, so I don’t like him.” Griffin is supporting GOP front runner Donald Trump, because “he’s anti-establishment. I think we need somebody who’s got the guts to be a leader.”