Cloudy skies and chilly temperatures did little to deter a massive group of Purdue students, faculty and citizens of Greater Lafayette from crowding outside the France A. Córdova Recreation Sports Center April 27. Thousands of people bundled up, braved the cold and waited in a line that stretched all the way around the building to attend Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign rally.
Whoops, cries and a chorus of supporters chanting “Feel the Bern” echoed across the streets of Purdue’s campus.
“I’ve been wanting to get more involved in the political process,” said Purdue Student and Sanders supporter Robert Thompson. “I’m used to this cold, conservative environment in West Lafayette, but there is such a feeling of positivity and acceptance here. I’m attracted to it as a weird, odd, creative artistic kid.”
Thompson wasn’t alone. Hundreds of other students and faculty members felt the same sense of community at the rally.
“This is history, having a candidate like him come to Purdue,” said junior Harrison Loiacono. “This is an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself, something you can tell about your kids one day, to teach them that we took part in a system where we have the ability to elect our own leaders.”
The crowd faced opposition as they waited in line. A group of libertarian and conservative Purdue students resisted the crowd by gathering across the street by Wiley Dining Court and shouting out loud their dissent toward Sanders’ proposed liberal policies. Garen Bragg, senior, helped organize the group of protesters.
“We demonstrated today because it is important that the public knows that conservative millennials exist,” Bragg said. “The media consistently pushes the narrative that young people are liberal and almost exclusively support Sanders. We wanted to make it clear that that is not the case.”
“The fact that many of our peers have bought into the dangerous ideology that is socialism is concerning to myself and many conservative students,” he added. “Oftentimes conservative young people don’t feel like they can speak their views on a college campus. The demonstration today gave those students a voice.”
Sanders supporters celebrated their support for the candidate with decorative signs and t-shirts as crowds of people made their way past a security checkpoint and packed into one of the building’s gymnasiums.
After 3 hours of waiting, Senator Sanders finally took the podium and greeted the audience of more than 2,200 people. The deafening roar of the crowd seemed to bounce across the gymnasium walls. In his first visit to Indiana, Sanders’ rally appealed to young voters to help him defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by supporting him in the upcoming primary May 3.
Sanders spoke for approximately an hour on a multitude of subjects, including environmental policy, trade laws, income inequality and especially corporate greed. He emphasized how the loyal support of young people gives him hope that the nation can finally achieve meaningful economic reform by preventing the growth of a system that favors the wealthy elite.
“Together we are not going to allow that to happen,” Sanders said. “We are not going to let the American dream go to die.”
“Change takes place when we are willing to stand together and fight for that change,” he added.