Bernie Sanders stood before 6,000 people at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) on Saturday, calling for tuition reform, wage equality and grassroots support in the upcoming election.
Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) is the first presidential candidate to visit Santa Barbara this year, as California residents prepare to cast their votes for the Democratic nominee on June 7. As the end of primary season approaches, Sanders is campaigning throughout the large state to push for a victory against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“There is a vision for young people in America that is the vision for the future of America,” he said to the large audience, telling students that “real change happens from the bottom up” with grassroots activism.
Students have been a driving force for Sanders’s campaign, organizing nationwide to support his goals for lower tuition and decreased student debt. At UC Santa Barbara, UCSB For Bernie began campaigning early in the year and last week hosted actor Danny DeVito on campus to encourage students to “Feel the Bern.”
Kyle Butts, a former UCSB student, took a leave of absence from the University to join Sanders’s 2016 campaign.
“I’ll tell you a little secret — we win when people like you and me are involved in the political revolution,” he said to the crowd, urging students to volunteer for Sanders’s campaign in the 10 days leading up to the California primary.
The crowd ranged from five-year-old activists to several adults who had last seen Bill Clinton visit SBCC during his presidential campaign in 1996. As supporters pressed against the railing on the chilly day, Sanders captured the crowd’s attention in the large, but intimate setting.
He spoke briefly about the “so-called war on drugs,” telling local voters to decriminalize marijuana by voting in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in November. If the measure is passed, California would join states such as Colorado and Washington, allowing possession of marijuana for any adult over 21.
Using Santa Barbara as an example, Sanders then described the national issue of economic inequality.
“In fact, Santa Barbara, right here, is one of the 10 most expensive ZIP codes in the country,” he said. “But with all of the wealth in this community, Santa Barbara County has the fourth-highest poverty rate in California.”
Sanders spoke for over an hour, addressing a wide range of topics as audience members cheered and held posters that proudly displayed his campaign slogan, “A Future To Believe In.”
One large banner congratulated Sanders and his wife on 28 years of marriage, and he thanked the crowd for their consistent support. He was also joined by actors Dick Van Dyke and Justin Long, who introduced the presidential candidate with small speeches in support of his campaign.
Sanders attended a rally in Santa Maria on Friday afternoon and will continue his tour through California with appearances in Visalia and Fresno tomorrow, as well as two rallies in Oakland on Monday.