Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was welcomed Wednesday evening by an overflow crowd at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles with harmonized chanting, life-size replicas of him and even topless supporters. The large number of young people at the venue suggested a demographic more likely to flock to the Coachella festival this spring—and they were unapologetically passionate about liberal politics.

The Vermont senator’s supporters arrived with “Free Hugs” signs and formed hearts in the air with their hands. The rally felt more like a throwback to California concerts in the free-love era than a straightforward political event. Actress Rosario Dawson clearly felt the vibe, introducing Sanders with poetic jingles like “Love ‘Trumps’ hate.”

For his part, Sanders kept the focus on the issues at hand, making sure to address subjects important to his Los Angeles supporters. After taking the podium almost 1½ hours past the scheduled time, he spoke about the need to end fracking and income inequality and to revolutionize political campaigning.

“We can argue about whether Vermont is more progressive than California, but I feel very comfortable here,” Sanders said. He also assured the audience that his campaign is listening to “our brothers and sisters in the Latino, African-American and Native American communities.”

Riding high from his “Western Tuesday” wins in Idaho and Utah, Sanders remained buoyant about his ability to win the general election in November. “There’s some mythology going around that we cannot win this election. That is mythology!” he said. “Tell that to the people in Idaho and Utah last night. They gave us almost 80 percent of the vote.”

Sanders also took a moment to acknowledge Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s own victories while putting them in a context that favored him in the long run. “Secretary Clinton did very well in the South. We are out of the South. We are in the West now,” he said.

California Democrats will cast votes in a June 7 primary, and Sanders urged the Wiltern audience to throw in for him on that date.

The candidate touched on polling problems that occurred in Arizona the day before. “Whether that was deliberate or incompetence in Arizona, that is unacceptable,” Sanders said, pointing to reports that thousands of Arizonans were unable to vote because of huge lines at polls.

–Posted by Sarah Wesley

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