Generating comparisons to his 2016 insurgent run for president that saw overflow crowds in nearly every town he visited, Sen. Bernie Sanders drew a “yuge” crowd to a rally in Los Angeles on Saturday as the 2020 presidential candidate made his first swing through the country’s most populous state of California over the weekend.

The Los Angeles Times put the estimated number of attendees at the rally in a sprawling city park at 12,000 people, but others suggested the number was much higher.

According to Heavy.com‘s reporting from Saturday evening:

The rally took place … at the Grand Park downtown, across from City Hall. Exactly how many people attended isn’t yet known, but the numbers are significant since the park can hold from 25,000 to 50,000 people, depending on the setup. On top of that, 22,000 RSVP’d on Facebook for Sanders’ event in LA, and crowd size photos show a significant turnout. In fact, so many people showed up that an overflow crowd formed on the steps of City Hall across the street. An early report shared that 15,000 might have been there tonight, but it’s not yet clear if this is accurate or includes overflow crowds.

“I look around at this enormous crowd,” Sanders declared to those gathered in Grand Park, “I think not only are we going to win California, we’re going to win the Democratic nomination.”

On Friday night, Sanders held a major rally in San Diego’s Waterfront Park, which was filled to capacity with nearly 4,000 people. And with a Sunday afternoon rally scheduled at San Francisco’s Fort Mason park, which can also accommodate many thousands of people, The Nation magazine’s John Nichols said the size and energy of Sanders’ crowds should not be ignored:

 

As Charles Davis noted for the Guardian, “The reason for the California tour – Sanders’ first since announcing his new run for president – is simple: math. America’s most populous state has the most delegates up for grabs, and its voters can begin casting ballots 2 February, the same day as the Iowa caucuses.”

And the LA Times‘ Melanie Mason reports:

With its earlier primary on March 3 — and mail ballots going out a month prior — California is considered by the Sanders campaign to be among the crucial “first five,” lumping the Golden State in with traditional early nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

By holding successive rallies this weekend in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Sanders is signaling plans to mount an aggressive bid for California, capitalizing on his demonstrated fundraising prowess and cadre of devoted followers such as Johnson. A midday rally in downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Park had the feel of a laid-back family reunion, with attendees being greeted by a row of volunteers offering “high-fives for Bernie.”

During his speech in Grand Park on Saturday, Sanders commemorated the victims of the recent terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, where two mosques were targeted by a man espousing Islamophobic and anti-immigrant hate. Under his administration, Sanders indicated, the kind of racist vitriol and xenophobia that has become a hallmark of President Trump—who has repeatedly praised autocrats would be a thing of the past.

“As president of the United States, I will not have kind words to say about authoritarian leaders around the world who espouse bigotry and hatred,” Sanders told the crowd. “Together we will make the United States the leader in the world in the fight for democracy and human rights.”

 

Asked about the many other candidates in the Democratic field, rally attendee David Seigel told the LA Times, “They’re almost all good, in my opinion.” While the 60-year-old computer analyst from Beverly Hills told the newspaper Sanders was his first choice, he put Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as a close second. Regardless of whom ultimately wins the primary, Seigel said he will vote for whichever Democrat faces off against Trump next year.  “That’s not even a question,” he said.

Watch the full Grand Park speech (starts at approx. 43:03):

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