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Sanders supporters rally in Oakland and Downtown

Bernie Sanders supporters marched from Oakland to downtown Saturday morning.  Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Bernie Sanders supporters marched from Oakland to downtown Saturday morning. Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Bernie Sanders supporters marched from Oakland to downtown Saturday morning. Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

By Josh Ye / Staff Writer

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Pitt senior Sisto Campana and his parents showed support for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday morning, the same day of the South Carolina Democratic primary.

The March for Bernie started at about 11 a.m. in front of the Cathedral of Learning, where attendees could register to vote in pop-up tents. A crowd of 1,000 Sanders supporters marched down Fifth Avenue from Bigelow Boulevard to Market Square, where they met up with another 1,000 supporters rallying for Sanders’ election.

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Campana, an urban studies major, said he supports the candidate because his policies speak to the topics he’s studied throughout college — income equality, migrant workers’ rights, women’s rights and social justice.

“Bernie is the only one who really is talking to those points. [Sanders’ policies are to] not give free stuff away or support lazy workers or stuff like that but just guarantee rights,” Campana said. “I saw him in one of the presidential debates and what he said just resonated with me.”

Campana’s father, Peter Campana, said he’s supporting Sanders’ campaign because he’s invested in preventing a Republican president from taking office, but is skeptical of Sanders’ ability to win the general election.

The Campanas weren’t the only family to attend the rally together — Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who is heading the Pittsburgh chapter of Sanders’ campaign, brought his kids on stage during his speech at the rally in Market Square.

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

“Representing the first grader for Bernie, this is my son Karl. Representing the 4-year-old for Bernie, this is my daughter Gracie,” Fetterman said. “And from the Bernie-is-best category … this is Harper.”

Fetterman, who is running for Senate, spoke about campaign finance reform and immigration reform, campaigning for Sanders and himself at the same time. Fetterman is the first statewide candidate in Pennsylvania to endorse Sanders.

“We cannot have a society where billionaires can shop for candidates the way you and I would shop for laptops,” Fetterman said. “We need to end mass incarceration. We have to end this nation’s failed war on drugs. We need to legalize marijuana. We need safe, comprehensive, sane immigration reform.”

The 2,000-person crowd, organized through a Facebook event, met Fetterman’s speech with raucous applause.

Greg Schaffer, the principal event organizer, said the march and rally began as a Facebook event created by Derek Morris, a Sanders supporter from Perryopolis, Pennsylvania.

After Schaffer, who is not a Pitt student, saw the event on Facebook, he and a few key members of Burghers for Bernie, a grassroots campaign organization that supports Sanders within Pittsburgh, offered to help Morris.

Schaffer said the event doesn’t have a sole organizing group, and Burghers for Bernie is not an official sponsor.

Schaffer said he expected Sanders’ loss in South Carolina, but that the state is not a strategic focus for the campaign.

“Fortunately, Super Tuesday is around the corner and there will be a lot more delegates up for grabs, which will help wipe the slate clean,” Schaffer said.

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Patrick Hessenius, a senior civil engineering major at Pitt, said he attended the event because he applauds Sanders’ stance on campaign finance reform and climate change.

“Even if you don’t agree with his social policies, just the idea of getting money out of politics and campaign finance … should be enough of a reason to support him,” Hessenius said. “That goes across all party lines.”

Coming from an engineering and an environmental studies background, Hessenius said Sanders’ plan to build climate-friendly infrastructure can benefit his engineering career.

Hessenius said his only reservation in supporting Sanders is related to minimum wage — the presidential hopeful wants to raise minimum wage to $15 nationwide.

“I don’t think you can just flip the switch like that,” Hessenius said. “I think it needs to be gradually put in.”

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

For Fetterman, big changes — such as minimum wage raising — will be gradual, but they’ll happen faster if he and Sanders are both elected to Senate and presidential office, respectively, at the same time.

“If you think inequality is one issue, you don’t get it. Inequality is every issue and how it permeates this society. And the only person in this race understands that is Bernie Sanders,” Fetterman said. “I am proud to be front and center on his team.”

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Sanders supporters rally in Oakland and Downtown