LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders' LA rally drew a massive crowd to the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Monday night.
Sanders, currently serving as senator from Vermont, spoke to the roaring crowd as part of an unpredictably hot campaign that continues to heat up.
The 73-year-old took the opportunity Monday evening to obliquely address the incident that occurred in Seattle over the weekend, in which another large Sanders campaign rally was interrupted by protesters from the group Black Lives Matter.
The protesters demanded that Sanders address in a more specific and urgent way the problems between law enforcement and minority communities in the United States.
This, however, did not seem to shake any of Sanders' support.
"You know, I understand what the BLM movement is trying to do, because that's me. Black male in this country targeted by police," supporter Wilson Holts said. "I definitely still support him, 100 percent."
While he never mentioned the specific incident, Sanders' response was clear.
"There is no president, none, one year after the death of Michael Brown, no president who will fight harder to end institutional racism that I will," Sanders said. "(There is) no president who will push harder for fundamental changes in our criminal justice system."
USC's Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics director Dan Schnur said Monday that Sanders' surprising appeal is similar in at least one respect to the appeal of Donal Trump for republicans. Schnur says that the appeal for Sanders is fueled by voters who are sick and tired of the repetitive political rhetoric and empty promises.
"They're very different people with very different backgrounds and greater differences in terms of ideology, but both of them are saying to the respective bases of their parties (that) you don't have to compromise, you don't have to give up what's important to you," Schnur said. "Let's go get all of it."
These voters include people such as Air Force Academy alumnus Larry Severson, a lifelong republican who says he changed his party affiliation for this campaign.
"I became an Eisenhower Republican in 1960, I stayed a Republican, though I kept getting frustrated with the way they were going," Severson said. "A month ago, I switched to democrat so I could vote for Bernie Sanders, because I believe in the Constitution and protecting it."
Monday's crowd arrived early, with curious and interested supporters lined up for hours in a queue that stretched entirely around the perimeter of the Sports Arena.
"(Sanders) has a huge idea of what it means to be someone who is a young adult trying to get through college, dealing with student loans, and he's trying to be there for us so that when we're stuck with our student debt, we aren't going to just fall through the cracks," attendee Kirsti Stangeland said. "He'll be there to catch us."
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