Bernie Sanders speaking Monday at a campaign stop in Oakland, Calif. (YouTube)

There was a palpable thrill in the air as some 20,000 supporters, by conservative estimates, stood in lines that stretched for blocks to hear Bernie Sanders speak Monday in Oakland, Calif. Hundreds of supporters were turned away in the name of security at the event, which marked one of Sanders’ campaign stops before the state’s crucial primary election on June 7.

Given that the local basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, was competing in the NBA playoffs simultaneously, Sanders held his own over a loyal crowd—one that appears, like the candidate, unwilling to back down in the face of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s assurance that she is the party’s de facto nominee. Clinton’s seemingly unlikely challenger, a balding Jewish man with a Brooklyn accent who has taken the Democratic Party by storm, still believes that even though he may not be able to win the delegate count, he has the power to tilt the political slant of the debate in favor of the 99 percent of Americans whom the power elite and most of the Republican Party have all but forgotten.

Actor Danny Glover drew cheers with his introductory comments, which included a response to Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. “We love Muslims!” Glover said. “We’re not going to build a wall [between the U.S. and Mexico] … We’re going to build new roads.”

Parents (including this writer) dragged along or carried exhausted children bedecked in clothing bearing such slogans as “Feel The Bern” and “Dump Trump,” while young men and women, the elderly and students stood on top of trash cans, balanced on metal railings and hung off of lamp posts just to get a glimpse of their chosen candidate.

Sanders’ speech was held at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in the heart of Oakland, where a wing of the West Coast Occupy Wall Street movement was based. The plaza was also where police officers clashed with Occupy protesters in 2012. Sanders’ choice of location reflected his willingness to not shy away from issues that many other politicians would rather sweep under the rug. It is this boldness that appears to attract supporters who believe he is trustworthy.

The theme of trust came up repeatedly in conversations with Sanders supporters interviewed for this report. Tiffany, a young Asian-American supporter, said, “I definitely trust Bernie over Hillary. He just has a more solid voting record.” She said that she’s not sure what she will do if Sanders doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, but she’s considering writing in his name on her ballot.

Ted Seitz, a longtime Republican who voted Democratic in the last three elections, said that while he is a Sanders fan, he still identifies as a Republican. “I agree with Bernie about free tuition—it’s not a radical idea; we used to have that,” he said, adding that if “liberals abandon the Republican Party, it will become more and more right-wing.”

Barbara, a stay-at-home mother of twin 9-year-olds, bribed one of her sons with a packet of M&Ms so he’d accompany her to the rally. She said, “I don’t think Hillary’s trustworthy. She takes money from corporations.” If the presidential contest comes down to Trump versus Clinton, she said, “I guess I’d have to vote for the lesser of two evils, and that would be Hillary.”

Although Sanders did not mention Oscar Grant by name, Ogawa Plaza was unofficially renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by supporters of the unarmed African-American man who was shot in the back by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in 2009—one of many cases of police violence that led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sanders may have picked the epicenter of that battleground as his setting in order to drive home the point that he is the candidate willing to speak for those who have been silenced.

The Democratic presidential hopeful was flanked by Secret Service agents, and police officers watched from the balcony above him. At one point during his speech, Sanders’ security detail snapped into action as animal rights activists seeking to influence Democratic candidates’ positions took to the stage.

In his comments about law enforcement, Sanders walked a fine line between honoring officers who serve with integrity and promising to fight police brutality.

Sanders also reemphasized his stance on issues that have become key components of his campaign platform. “No more wars that should not be fought,” he said. “No more tax breaks for billionaires. But yes to investing in inner cities and poverty-stricken rural areas.”

At a time when Trump’s reality-show antics draw the news cameras like flies, the thoughtful and educated content of Sanders’ speeches appears to have a magnetic pull for a significant group of independent voters.

If Sanders is right, and if his capacity to draw a crowd says anything, Clinton and the Democratic Party may actually have to listen. Why not offer an option that independent voters and Clinton supporters couldn’t resist: a Clinton-Sanders ticket?

Photo coverage of Monday’s Sanders event in Oakland below (via Evrybit):

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