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‘Aware of A Problem and Getting Justice For That Problem Are Two Totally Different Things’ ~ Bernie Sanders, Shaun King, Patrisse Cullors in L.A.

, CA – June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

[dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]ore than two thousand people waited in a line that went around the block of the Million Dollar Theatre and beyond in downtown Los Angeles — some as early as 9 am — on Saturday afternoon to hear Bernie Sanders, Real Justice Co-founder and writer Shaun King, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors and other local activists speak on policing, prison reform, and change.

The rally was the last leg of a series of events in Southern California for Sen. Sanders. The longtime Independent became a Democrat just before the 2016 presidential campaign, and finished in second-place in the Democratic primary race behind eventual Dem candidate Hillary Clinton. Sanders is reportedly considering a second run for the presidency in 2020.

Senator Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)

Before coming to downtown L.A., Sanders spoke at rally in Anaheim where he advocated for better pay for low-wage Disneyland workers, and at a town hall in Carson where he urged an end to the  exploitation and wage theft of thousands of truck drivers. Sander’s visit came right before California voters go to the polls in the 2018 primary, but the 76-year-old senator largely avoided making comments on local races at the Million Dollar Theater.

In Los Angeles, people of all ages and backgrounds toughed out the warm weather to gain perspective and learn more ways to become involved in social justice and politics.

Attendees waiting to get inside the Million Dollar Theater. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)
, CA - June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

One attendee, Cameron Williams, described himself as usually apathetic when it comes to politics. He did not vote during the 2016 election. Unhappy now with that decision, Williams came to the rally to learn more about what he can do for social justice.

“I don’t necessarily care too much for politics, but I understand that they have a hold, and they have a say on what happens in this country, so I want to be informed more,” he told L.A. TACO.

At the front of the line, a 15-year-old student, Ruben Blanco, looked to become more informed, too. He became interested in the event because of his older cousin, and said that he didn’t know much about Bernie Sanders, but hoped the rally would help him gain different perspectives on issues affecting society today. Much more familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement, Blanco came to see what change he could bring to the issues facing people of color face and policing.

'I think it’s out of fear, I don’t think it’s genuine hate.'

“I feel like that’s really messed up how all these kinds of stuff is happening and it’s not all equal,” Blanco said. “They say that we are all equal and it’s not, and it’s like mostly with all these black people and these brown people and it’s not this dream come true,” he said. “I don’t even know why people want to come [to this country], if it’s all messed up. I want to see how we can change it.”

(Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
, CA - June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

‘Time of Resurgence’

“I feel as like a young black woman living in society, for all my life I’ve always been very aware of the political climate,” said Amari Gaiter, an L.A. native and a student at Columbia University. “I think it’s a new time of resurgence when it comes to making sure you are politically engaged and staying aware of the things that are happening, and the things that affect not only me, but other people.”

Many feel that the Trump administration policies have been contributing to growing racism and xenophobia across the country.

“There’s a lot of division and anger and just a lot of like hate, and I think it’s out of fear, I don’t think it’s genuine hate,” said Hollywood resident Mireya Fernandez. “I’m here because I believe in change and I believe that there is this overwhelming majority of people who believe in change, and it’s not really about being left or being right or being in the middle, it’s about finding what we have in common and building, that so that we create one nation under the idea of humanity.”

Shaun King and Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors preceded Sanders and spoke about mass incarceration and the ways Angelenos can get mobilized to stop the spread of for-profit jails.

Patrisse Cullors speaks. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
, CA - June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

Low Returns

[dropcap size=big]K[/dropcap]ing talked about his experiences getting into advocacy and bringing awareness to the killings of black people across the country, as well as the lack of justice for families who have suffered losses due to police brutality. Overall, King continues to be hopeful that change can happen.

“I had been raised that if you organize and fight hard and put your all into something that you would at least get some version of what it was that you were fighting for, and never in my life had I fought so hard for and in return gotten so little,” King said.

The social-media leader told Angelenos that awareness of social and political issues is only the first step and shared some tips on how people could bring change.

“What I had to come to understand is that the gap between awareness and justice is a lot bigger than I understood. That being aware of a problem and getting justice for that problem are two totally different things,” King said.

(Photo  by Brian Feinzimer)
, CA - June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

Cullors spoke about mass incarceration and how Los Angeles is the leader in prisons.

“We live in the largest jailer in the world. We live in a county that has spent the last 40 to 50 years criminalizing our communities, eating us alive,” Cullors told the crowd of more than two thousand. “We must grow this number. The movement doesn’t end or begin here at the Million Dollar facility. This movement needs to grow and needs to develop.”

Other speakers, included Jayda Rasberry with Dignity and Power Now, Ivette Ale with Justice LA, Melina Abdullah and Jasmyne Cannick, campaign director with Reform LA. They spoke about the organization’s campaign to gather signatures to place a ballot seeking to give the LA County Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission subpoena power to independently investigate misconduct and the ability to develop a plan to reduce jail populations on the November ballot in LA County.

Shaun King. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Shaun King. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)

‘It’s Not Bernie’

When Bernie Sanders took the stage, he praised all the speakers.

“It is an honor for me to be here with heroes and heroines, people who have led this country in demanding that finally, finally, we address the crisis of a broken, destructive criminal justice system,” he said.

He also thanked his supporters. “I just want to thank all of you for your love and support, but at the end of the day, at the end of the day, it’s not Bernie. It’s you and you and you and you,” he said. “You know and I know and everybody here knows that real change never takes place from the top on down.”

“It is millions of people standing up demanding change,” Sanders said.

'First time since Bobby Kennedy.'

He touched on the LA County jail system, and the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos currently behind bars. Before he left the stage, the senator reminded the crowd to vote. “And here in California this Tuesday, and in the coming years, you here in the largest state in America, [you] can help lead this country,” Sanders said.

(Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
, CA - June 2: at on June 2, 2018 in , California (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image)

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]or some, Sander’s energizing words were what they came for.

“Since the 2016 election, it’s been hard to get amped up about a lot because there doesn’t seem [to be] a lot of hope,” said Alexa Blumenstock before she saw Sanders speak. “Now that we have the primary coming up in the state and then the midterm elections late this year, it’s finally a feeling of hope again, that we can make a difference, and seeing Bernie is definitely kind of a way to help rev us up for that.”

Blumenstock added: “You know, encourage us to go out and vote and give us this sort of excitement, enthusiasm that he always give us, and talking about the issues that we care about, instead of all the crap we hear on TV about Trump meeting with Kim Kardashian and other stuff like that.”

Some attendants were not yet sure of who they were voting for, but were determined to vote on Tuesday.

Mireya Fernandez, another local who listened to the speakers, said: “We’re going to light California up blue. That’s what I’ll say.”

Will He Run?

But the rumors of a Sanders run in 2020 weren’t too far from the surface. There were even people wearing shirts that supported another Sanders run for the presidency. At one moment during his speech, the crowd began chanting “2020!”

Carrie Copsin of Burbank, a volunteer at the event, told L.A. Taco she hasn’t supported a politician so strongly since Robert Kennedy’s run for president in 1968. Now nearly 70 years old, Copsin said she worked on that progressive campaign that was poised to go national after the California primary.

“One thing about Bernie,” Copsin said. “I was with Robert Kennedy when he was running for president and the first time I heard Bernie speak, that was the first time that I’ve ever heard a presidential candidate that really touched my soul. First time since Bobby Kennedy.”

The day Kennedy won the California’s Democratic primary, he was shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard on June 5. Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Bobby Kennedy assassination.

“This is how long I waited for Bernie,” Copsin said.

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