In his first return to Seattle since losing his presidential nomination bid, Bernie Sanders arrived preaching unity. In a city that enthusiastically rallied behind him but has not shown the same fervor for Hillary Clinton, the crowd wasn't having it.
"I'm going to do everything I can to see that Hillary Clinton becomes president," Sanders said. The crowd booed.
Sanders was in town to help rally support for State Senator Pramila Jayapal, who's running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Washington's 7th district, but also used the stage to talk presidential politics. Sanders handily won the Washington
primary caucuses this spring and drew huge crowds to rallies in Seattle during his presidential bid. At the Democratic National Convention, hardcore Sanders delegates from Washington participated in protests of Hillary Clinton and left dejected.
As both Jayapal and Sanders offered endorsements of Clinton, some applauded but others booed and heckled loudly.
"I know some of you aren't that excited about it," Jayapal told the crowd in response. "We were all supporters of Bernie. But let me tell you something. As an immigrant woman of color, I simply do not have the luxury to allow Donald Trump to get anywhere near the White House."
At one point during Sanders' speech, as referenced the "rigged economy," someone shouted "they rigged you!"
Even as the Clinton question repeatedly divided the crowd, the candidates' stump speeches covered familiar and popular ground.
Sanders delivered a speech largely reminiscent of every speech you've heard him give before, laser-focused on income inequality.
"I ran all over this country talking about a rigged economy and a broken tax system and yet in one day, Donald Trump did more to explain how corrupt our tax system is than anything I could have done," Sanders told the crowd. "What he did is he showed the whole world, 'Hey, I am a multi-billionaire, I got mansions all over the world, I live in the lap of luxury, and I don't have to pay any taxes.' Pramila and I have some news for Donald Trump and his billionaire friends: You are gonna start paying your fair share."
Jayapal advocated increasing the federal minimum wage, reforming gun laws, overturning Citizens United, making college free, expanding social security and medicare, and making healthcare and childcare more affordable. She endorsed this fall's Washington State minimum wage and gun safety initiatives and other Democratic candidates like secretary of state candidate Tina Podlodowski and U.S. Senator Patty Murray.
Jayapal said the federal government should "use the force of the Justice Department" to charge police officers who kill civilians and promised to "take on the biggest fossil fuel companies that are blocking progress on climate change."
In the crowd, a small group holding a "Natives for Bernie" sign chanted statements of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"We are going to make sure we build the power of all of us to take on those most powerful interests," Jayapal said, mentioning the Standing Rock Sioux and the Lummi Nation, which successfully fought a coal terminal at Cherry Point. "And I can't wait to do that."
Roxanne White, a member of the Nez Pierce and Nimi'ipuu Tribes, said she supports Jayapal and hoped her presence and chanting at the rally would "shed some light on a public platform for Standing Rock."
After both Jayapal and Sanders briefly mentioned the Standing Rock Sioux, White said she was "grateful they touched on it."
"Do I feel like they touched on it like it needs to be talked about? No," she said. "They're more worried about what's going on right now with the political race, but none of that's gonna matter in 30 years. We're all gonna be fighting for water. We're all gonna be hurting for water. So all of this right here doesn't even matter."
(You can watch both full speeches here.)
As he waited for the rally to start, Ryan Whitney held a painting of Bernie he made and hoped to get the Vermont senator to sign. Whitney, a 29-year-old home inspector, said he plans to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the hopes of bolstering a third party. If he lived in a swing state, he said, he'd vote for Clinton.
Whitney said he hopes progressives can remake the Democratic Party from the inside out and he sees Jayapal as part of that takeover. "Bernie is rare in his honesty and so is Pramila," Whitney said. "She's not one who changes her position or says one thing and does another. That's something that's rare in politics and something we need more of."
Kwan Lui, 31, said he was still learning more about Jayapal's platform but that he too is "done with the two party system."
"To me, they're both parties that work for corporations and billionaires," Lui said. "We need parties that are more for the grassroots. We need to start from the bottom up."
Cynthia Engel, a 46-year-old teacher, said she first heard Jayapal about a year ago on NPR "talking about big pharma, big banking, social justice, and taking care of individuals before corporations" and has remembered her ever since.
This year was Engel's first time ever voting after being energized by Sanders' talk about the pharmaceutical industry. His loss left her feeling "grief," she said. But as she waited for him to take the stage last night, she was resigned to voting for Clinton. "I don't have a choice," she said.