It is certainly difficult to know how many people attended Bernie Sanders’ rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday afternoon, just 2 days before Super Tuesday. Were we 25,000? 35,000? It probably took me an hour just to get inside, another hour to pass security, despite the fact I got there very early… Long lines of Bernie supporters continued to arrive during the afternoon, and people filled up the huge Tom Bradley Hall, decorated by giant American and California flags.
It is always impressive to be part of such a big event, and people were nice and patient despite the long wait. Needless to say, the crowd was very diverse, unlike some Trump rallies I have seen on TV where white is the dominant color. The successive speakers who talked just before Bernie, addressed the crowd in Spanish and English, often in this order, and that definitively was a sign.
Musicians representing the American Federation of musicians and musicians unions played a few tunes before a performance by Chilean singer and Grammy Awards winner Ana Tijoux. She rapped about violence and patriarchy, with style and vocal onomatopoeia over her Latino crossover music, and of course, she also performed in Spanish.
Comedian Sarah Silverman gave a very intelligent and funny speech, ‘Socialism is not communism!’ and was followed by 94-year-old legend Dick Van Dyke who had a brief senior moment, while the crowd was cheering up ‘We Love Dick!’ They were both very funny while freedom fighter Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, made an apparition wearing a very noticeable ’20 Ans de Miseducation – Ms. Lauryn Hill’ blue cape.
Marisa Franco, a Latino rights advocate co-founder of Mijente, introduced Bernie Sanders at the sound of John Lennon’s ‘Power to the People’ – while I also remember hearing during the event Simon and Garfunkel (‘America’), Neil Young (‘Rockin’ in the Free World’) and a song by Sleigh Bells – and the crowd could not contain its enthusiasm.
Bernie was introduced as the 46th president of the United States with a very loud clamor coming from thousands of people. As usual, Bernie was clear, direct and funny, he called Trump ‘the most dangerous president in the modern history of America’, ‘a pathological liar in the white house’ who has ‘never read the constitution of the US’ and is running a ‘corrupt administration’. He also joked about picking Dick Van Dyke as a potential ‘youthful and vigorous’ vice president, but his discourse was that of a winner – and it’s no mystery he will probably win the votes in California – insisting that California is crucial at determining the Democratic nomination
Sanders’ message was about caring for other people, ‘the purpose of life is not the make millions’… ‘it’s about us not me’, and his discourse did enumerate everything people wanted to hear to build a better society: raising the minimum wage, giving equal pay for equal work, making easy to join union, rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure, making health care available to everyone, reforming the racist and broken justice system, ending cash bail and private prisons, investing in jobs and education, not incarceration, legalizing marijuana and erasing the record of those incarcerated because of it, stopping demonization of emigrants, ending ICE raid which terrorize communities, ending border policy which allow snatching babies from their mothers, ending gun violence with universal background check, stopping the distribution of assaults weapons, expanding funding for Planned Parenthood… He also told us he won’t be intimated by fossil fuel industries, and the NRA, and it was a discourse of inclusion and social changes, ‘Let’s transform this country.’
His speech was echoed by Chuck D of Public Enemy Radio, introduced by Bernie as one of the original hip hop groups which has fought the power for decades. The iconic band took the sage after some hugs and fist bumps with Bernie, but it was nevertheless a slightly different group, led by Chuck D without Flavor Flav, who had sent a cease and desist letter to Bernie Sanders over the performance, accusing the campaign of using his ‘unauthorized likeness, image, and trademarked clock’ to promote the rally, even though Flavor Flav had ‘not endorsed any political candidate.’
It was thus Public Enemy Radio with Chuck D surrounded by DJ Lord, Jahi, and the S1Ws, but since they performed Public Enemy songs, it didn’t make any difference for the audience. Chuck D clarified on Twitter that the firing of Flavor Flav was not really due to the Sanders issue, as the two men had a long history of disagreement: ‘My last straw was long ago. It’s not about BERNIE with Flav … he don’t know the difference between [former NFL running back] Barry Sanders or Bernie Sanders. He don’t know either. FLAV refused to support Sankofa after Harry Belafonte inducted us. He don’t do that.’
He also added: ‘If there was a $bag, Flav would’ve been there front & center. He will NOT do free benefit shows. I built [Public Enemy Radio] so it does benefits & fundraisers.… He said he never gonna do them. So his refusal to do Harry Belafonte’s [Many Rivers to Cross festival] in Atlanta 2016 was my last time. I built Enemy Radio to get far away from that ridiculousness.’
Chuck D had no time for this type of business, he was ‘ready for the truth’ and didn’t mince his words, ‘People say Bernie is old, but I am a 59-old-ass rapper!’ he said before performing ‘Can’t Truss It.’
‘The whole world is looking at us, I travel the world, it’s time to wake up,’ continue the rapper who dedicated the set to his father, who passed away at 77, ‘It was a struggle in this damn country!’
Between the iconic Public Enemy songs ‘Bring the Noise,’ ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,’ Chuck D was getting serious: ‘Use your common sense,’ ‘use your mind, don’t be no robot,’ ‘Be the most important motherfucker in your house,’ ‘Build schools not jails!’… ‘Put your grown-up pants on, it’s no time to be on the couch,’… but he was also funny: ‘Voting is as important as washing your ass in the morning, you have the right not to wash and walk around funky till someone says it sticks here!’
The performance was a call to arms and a spectacle to witness, as tens of thousands of people were jumping with their fists in the air at the sound of ‘Shut ‘Em Down,’ and it was certain that the endorsement by one of the most iconic hip hop groups truly mattered for plenty of people who grew up with Public Enemy.
Chuck D never mentioned Flavor Flav, but clearly said he didn’t care about bullshit like TV shows: ‘I am never on TV, no goddamn TV shows, ‘I’d rather be heard than be seen!’ and he surely was heard. Even when he was talking between the songs, his sentences sounded like the lyrics of a rap song, ‘It’s clear vision hindsight,’ he continued, ‘No cataract, in this fucking decade, No Messiah, no Jesus, but I don’t want this motherfucker Hitler,’ he added before ‘Fight the Power.’ At this point, everything was said.
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