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Bernie Sanders Rally In Missoula Draws Thousands

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop in Missoula, MT on May 11, 2016.
Sally Mauk
/
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop in Missoula, MT on May 11, 2016.

Thousands of people lined up, many for hours, for a chance to see and hear Bernie Sanders speak today in Missoula.

Supporters crowd around Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Missoula, MT Wednesday May 11, 2016.
Credit Bree Zender
Supporters crowd around Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Missoula, MT Wednesday May 11, 2016.

Under the tent in Caras park downtown, the mood was festive as supporters waited for Sanders to arrive. Among those lined up outside were Isadore and Sashay Mitchel from Arlee.

"He’s not afraid to have new ideas, and admit that we need to go in a new direction," says Sashay.

"We like what he stands for. You finally see someone, when he speaks, it's honesty, not trying to decipher what they're really saying underneath all that."

"We believe him when he speaks."

Members of the Little Shell and Pend d'Oreilles tribes, the Mitchels say Sanders is the only presidential candidate who seems to really care about Native American issues.

A little farther up in line, Missoula resident Carol Adler Morgan said she’s a Bernie fan.

"But a little conflicted, I quite like Hillary, too."

Morgan says she’s been a Hilary fan for a long time, and remains undecided about who will get her vote.

Whitney: What is it that attracts you to Hillary?

Carol Adler Morgan: Her experience, and the fact that we need more women in government.

When Bernie Sanders took the stage about 12:45, he talked about his chances to win the Democratic party nomination.

"Truth is, there are eight states remaining in the Democratic Primary and caucus process. And if we do very, very well — and it is a steep climb, I admit it — but you know what, we have been fighting a for a steep climb from the day we got into this race. But if we can do very well next week and on June 7, we could have more pledged delegates than Secretary Clinton when we go into the convention. So I say to those superdelegates in the states where we won landslide victories: listen to the people of your state!"

Trish Kinney of Kalispell welcomes other Bernie Sandera supporters to a rally on May 11. "I've always voted, but I've never been more excited or hopeful as much as I am for Bernie's message," she said.
Credit Bree Zender
Trish Kinney of Kalispell welcomes other Bernie Sandera supporters to a rally on May 11. "I've always voted, but I've never been more excited or hopeful as much as I am for Bernie's message," she said.

Sanders spoke for more than an hour. He said that while other campaigns are beholden to the millionaires they’re “begging for campaign contributions,” he’s looking out for the middle class and disenfranchised.

He addressed specific Montana issues a few times.

"Whether the fossil fuel industry likes it or not, we are going to move away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. I understand very well that in Montana, Kentucky, West Virginia, states throughout this country that transition will hurt a number of working people. But here's my promise: we are not going to leave those workers behind. All they are trying to do is earn enough living to take care of their families. We are going to protect them. In our legislation — the most sweeping climate change legislation ever offered in the Senate — we provide $41 billion to rebuild communities and create jobs for those people who are hurt in that transition."

Sanders said his campaign is listening to people the other candidates are not.

"This campaign is listening to a people whose pain and problems get very, very little attention, and that is our brothers and sisters in the Native American community. When the first settlers came here, the Native American people were lied to, they were cheated, and treaties they negotiated were broken.  And yet when we think about the contribution that the Native American people have made to our culture and our nation, the debt we owe them is literally unpayable. They have taught us a very profound lesson, a lesson that we must heed; and that is as human beings we are part of nature, we must coexist with nature, and that if we destroy nature we are destroying the human species.

"And yet today, on reservations, and in Native American communities, unemployment and poverty are sky-high. [The] suicide rate of young people is horrific. People are addicted to alcohol and drugs. If elected president, we will fundamentally change our relationship to the Native American community."

Sanders also talked about equal pay for women, campaign finance reform, and revolutionizing how Wall Street and American workers are treated.

"And once people start thinking about those issues, and once people start standing up and fighting back; then we change America, and that is what this campaign is about."

Sanders wrapped up urging Montana to have its highest-ever primary turn-out June 7. He then left for Billings for a rally at 7:00 p.m.

Sanders made time for interviews with commercial media in Missoula, but declined Montana Public Radio’s interview requests.

An estimated 9,100 people showed up for the Bernie Sanders rally in Missoula's Caras Park.
Credit Sally Mauk
An estimated 9,100 people showed up for the Bernie Sanders rally in Missoula's Caras Park.

After the rally, attendees Alex Rich, Rhonda Stahl, Paul Lenahan said it was a great event.

"Feelin the Bern! I've never seen such an inspiring political candidate. For once I'm actually inspired and hopeful about what's gonna be happening," said Rich.

"Bernie speaks to my heart, Hillary speaks to my head. So many of the topics he addressed really pertained to my reality. I'm just one person, you know, but he's talking to me, he's talking to millions," Stahl says.

"The electricity of the crowd was invigorating. I think it was something to do with the way Bernie talked. I think it was from his heart. and I think that sends a static out into the crowd that touches everybody else's heart," Lenahan says.

Those voices were gathered by University of Montana Journalism Student Cole Grant.

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