NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A cheering and jubilant crowd turned out for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Washington Square Park Wednesday night.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the Vermont senator and Brooklyn native spoke to a crowd brimming with young voters. The Sanders campaign reported a turnout of 27,000 people for the rally, 1010 WINS reported.READ MORE: Retired FDNY Firefighter Suffering From 9/11-Related Illness In Need Of Lifesaving Bone Marrow Transplant
At the rally, Sanders presented himself as the lone candidate who has rejected funding from “the billionaire class,” as he outlined what he said were the differences between himself and Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton.
“You can tell a lot about a candidate and the campaign they run by how they raise the money to run those campaigns,” he said. “When we began this campaign, we had to make a choice. Would we do what every other campaign is doing and establish a superPAC? We agreed with you. We do not represent the billionaire class. We do not represent corporate America. We do not represent Wall Street. We do not want their money.”
Sanders went on to take Clinton to task for raising money from superPACs – one of which he said raised $25 million from special interests and $15 million from Wall Street laone.
He further criticized Clinton for accepting a fee of $225,000 for a speech.
“It must be an extraordinary speech,” Sanders said. “It must be a speech that can solve most of the world’s problems. It must be a speech written in Shakespearean prose.”
Sanders also praised newly-passed laws in New York and other states that will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and took several corporations and their executives to task.
He said as president, he would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour and end the gender pay gap between men and women – now estimated at 79 cents for every dollar made by a man for the same work.
“Women in America want the whole damn dollar,” he said. “They’re right.”
He further blamed trade agreements, such as the North American and Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreements, for the decline of American manufacturing and the loss of well-paying jobs.
He said the trade agreements were motivated by a push to pay workers “pennies on the hour” overseas rather than paying an American worker a higher wage.
“Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these awful trade agreements,” Sanders said.
Sanders also pointed out that he voted against the Iraq War when he was in the U.S House of Representatives during President George W. Bush’s administration, while Clinton, then in the U.S. Senate, had voted for it.
Sanders also spoke against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, calling it a threat to clean water and saying he would move for a national ban on fracking as president. He claimed that Clinton had supporting fracking.
“As secretary of state, she actually aggressively pushed fracking in countries all over the world,” he said.READ MORE: Harlem Man Arrested After Allegedly Punching Woman, Striking 5-Year-Old Child
Sanders also called for expansion of Social Security benefits.
“A great country is not remembered by how many millionaires and billionaires it has, not by how many nuclear weapons it has, but by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable among us,” he said.
He said his campaign has been listening to voices of many communities, including the African-American, Latino and Native American communities, and young people. In addressing the Latino community, he said he would work if elected president to enact immigration reform and a path to citizenship for immigrants – and would use an executive order if necessary.
He further called for an overhaul of the criminal justice system, calling for police department and prison reform, and education rather than incarceration. While defending the majority of officers, he said officers who break the law “must be held accountable.”
Single-payer universal health care and a transition away from fossil fuels for energy were among the other themes in Sanders’ address.
“Brothers and sisters, this is a pivotal moment in American history,” he said.
Supporters at the rally included actor Tim Robbins, who urged people to vote for their hearts.
“I’m here today to talk to our friends in the Democratic Party that feel Bernie in their hearts, but are supporting Hillary with their pragmatic selves,” Robbins said.
But while Sanders has gained a reputation for firing up young voters hoping for an Empire State surprise, voters age 18 to 29 represent only about 15 percent of the electorate.
With that in mind, Sanders has also worked hard to turn out the union faithful, picking up the endorsement of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 – 42,000 strong.
Sanders also joined striking Verizon landline and cable workers on a picket line in Brooklyn. He said the workers were displaying courage for standing up against the telecommunications giant.
Their union, the Communications Workers of America, has endorsed Sanders.
But Clinton also made an unscheduled stop Wednesday, and greeted strikers outside a Verizon store in Midtown.
“I believe in the voice for working people,” she said.
Clinton also has strong labor support. Retirees from the United Federation of Teachers have been working their phone bank for weeks on his behalf.
Polls show Clinton has a two-to-one advantage with African-American Democrats. She got a warm welcome at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
“There’s something wrong, my friends, when the median wealth for black families is a tiny fraction of the median wealth for white families,” Clinton said.MORE NEWS: New York Judge Suspends Father's Visitation Rights With Daughter Unless He Gets COVID Vaccine Or Subjects To Weekly Testing
Clinton also stopped by Co-Op City Wednesday to encourage her campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts in the Bronx.