A crowd of about 1,500 people gathered around Playa Vista’s Central Park bandshell Thursday evening at a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) rally for mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass that included an appearance — and endorsement — from Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I’m here tonight, obviously to ask you to elect Karen as mayor, but I’m asking you tonight to do even more than that,” Sanders said. “We’re up against very powerful people who are funded by billionaires; they have endless amounts of money and they’ll use that money any way they can in order to gain power…. But if we stand together against the greed and power of the billionaire class, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”
With less than two weeks until the election, the “Bern for Bass” had attendees cheering, chanting, and even dancing. The limited seating was given primarily to people unable to stand for hours at a time, while everyone else stood on the lawn in front of the bandshell like general-admission concert-goers. Before the rally started, a SpaceX Starlink launch arced across the dusk sky, but the lit-up billboard-sized “VOTE BASS” sign shone brighter — and served as a backdrop for a lot more Instagram selfies.
After LA radio host Dominique DiPrima and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago greeted the crowd, they introduced the first guest speakers of the night: Sydney Minetta Brown, president of USC’s Trojan Democrats, and LMU’s own Vice President of Cultural Affairs and Justice, junior Jesus Paco Estrada.
“Karen Bass is going up against an anti-abortion billionare Republican who’s trying to buy this election,” Estrada said of Bass’s opponent, developer Rick Caruso, as the crowd booed in response. “But we’re not gonna let him do it, are we?”
A resounding “No” erupted from the crowd.
“I’m here to tell you now,” Estrada later continued. “Us youth are not the future — we’re the present. We’re here now! So let’s show up and show out. Let’s get Karen Bass elected!”
According to data from the LA Ethic’s Commission, Caruso, who registered as a Democrat just three weeks before announcing his candidacy, has spent around $92 million for his campaign so far, much of it his own money. Bass’s campaign, meanwhile, has spent about $8 million. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bass campaign workers spent the evening navigating the crowd encouraging people to volunteer for the campaign. People with clipboards and QR codes asked attendees waiting in line to enter the event to sign up and “join the movement.” Inside, two volunteers with the California Working Families Party pushed to the front of the waiting crowd to encourage volunteering and begin chants of “Boots on the ground beats money!”
Estrada and Santiago were followed by a number of Bass supporters, including Chair of the California Democratic Party (and LMU alumnus) Rusty Hicks, Adam Conover from the TV show “Adam Ruins Everything,” and Kara James, a nurse practitioner from Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. The rally also featured performances by Mariachi Magnolia and the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles’ drum corps.
“Today, I’m here to stop Rick Caruso from ruining Los Angeles,” Conover began. “Seriously, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A right-wing billionaire real estate developer runs for office and says that he alone can fix everything. And oh, by the way, he refuses to release his full tax-return, and he has a suspiciously even tan.”
The crowd laughed.
“Does that remind you of anybody? You know, Donald Trump was a disaster for America, and Rick Caruso — if we let him catch us sleeping — will be a disaster for Los Angeles.”
When Bass took the stage at about 7:50, the crowd roared — cheering, ringing cowbells and waving posters that said variations of support for the mayoral candidate proudly in the air.
“I look out in the crowd and I see what is wonderful about our city: The whole world is here,” she said while her grandson and daughter stood by her side. “What we know in our hearts and souls is that our city is at a crossroads. 40,000 Angelinos will go to bed tonight on the street, and five of them might not wake up tomorrow.”
Bass lamented the city’s failure to deal with this homelessness crisis and its “failed solutions [like] shelters and warehouses, locking people up, criminalizing poverty — we’re not doing it again.”
Bass brought Sanders onto the stage, prompting the lathered-up crowd to chant “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” After a hug and some photos with Sanders, Bass left the main-stage platform as Sanders sought to correct the crowd.
“Thank you, but tonight it is ‘Karen! Karen! Karen! Karen!’” he said. This created a bit of confusion, and chants of both names mixed together before the audience seemingly decided the moment had passed and stopped abruptly.
As Sanders spoke from the podium, Bass remained on stage next to risers full of her Youth For Bass campaign volunteers and listened to the senator speak, mostly smiling and nodding along in solidarity to her endorser’s points.
“I want to do something tonight that is not often done by politicians — I’m gonna tell you the truth,” he said. “And the truth is….”
Sanders was then interrupted by someone at the front of the crowd wearing a white hazmat-style suit, who began to shout questions. Then another person joined the first in shouting at Sanders, and members of the crowd in turn started yelling at them. Other crowd members cheered for Sanders, while the senator’s voice carried on above the commotion. He picked up from the cliffhanger without skipping a beat, saying that “…we live in an unprecedented moment in American history, where the challenges we face today are more difficult than at any time in our lifetime.”
The hecklers were removed from the event while Sanders continued, seemingly unbothered. This commotion lasted around three minutes.
“We are looking at more drought, more floods, and more extreme weather disturbances,” Sanders said. “And in terms of disturbances, we’re not gonna allow a handful of people to disrupt this meeting.” The crowd cheered in response, chanting his name again.
Sanders asked his listeners to work “as hard as you can” to elect Bass and other progressives. He then asked them to “continue to struggle” after the election “to make sure that, in America, we have the economic justice we deserve, the social justice we deserve, the racial justice we deserve, [and] the environmental justice we deserve.”
Perseverance, action and making “big changes” together; statements of defiance towards greed; pleas for progressive votes; powerful sentiments of “we” —of “us.” These ideas are what generated Bass’ “campaign for the people”…and what saturated the crowd with the Bern for Bass.
The general election is on Nov. 8. Voters can submit their ballot by mail, in a ballot drop-off box, or to a person at a local voting center. In LA county, there are already over 100 early voting centers open. Estrada, Bass and Bernie urged voters, especially those eligible in the younger generation, to get in their ballots and encourage others to do the same.
“I decided when I was their age,” Bass said gesturing to Estrada and the other young volunteers behind her, “that I wanted to spend my life fighting for justice, and I hope that they make that commitment too. Because the fight for justice never ends, and we always need the next wave, the next generation, to pass that baton on to.”
Sanders wrapped up the event with a final call for action. “…Real change comes when millions of people stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough! We are prepared to fight and create the nation we deserve,’” he declared. “Thank you all very much.”