Point Park students to march for Bernie Sanders

Written By Matt Petras

In 2008, Hillary Clinton comfortably won the Pennsylvania presidential primary against a man offering bold progressive change named Barack Obama. Now, Clinton is running against a democratic socialist named Bernie Sanders, who is offering an even bolder progressive change. 

Derek Morris and others are organizing a “March for Bernie” from Oakland to Downtown on Feb. 27, around two months prior to Pennsylvania’s presidential primary. Several Point Park students plan to attend. 

“This race is not about Hillary Clinton,” said one of the organizers, Greg Schaffer, via phone interview Feb 13. “It’s about Bernie Sanders.”

There are over ten Point Park students planning to attend the event out of the total of 1,300, according to the event’s Facebook page. An additional 4,000 people are interested in going, many among them also Point Park students. The event is several hours long, with pre-registration beginning at 9:30. The event includes voter registration, a rally, as well as a march ending in Market Square. 

Morris, the creator of this event, has never been involved in activism before. 

“I’m really surprised that this exploded like it did,” Morris said. “It’s a bit different for me.” 

Over $1,600 has been raised to run the event so far. 

“So many people have donated to me who I don’t even know,” Morris said. “I’m not even from Pittsburgh. I live 30 to 45 minutes outside of the city.” 

He started the event because he saw a dearth of activism for the Sanders campaign in Pittsburgh and is passionate about supporting the candidate, who he knew of before he decided to run for president.

“I just felt something… I just really think that it’s time for us, together, to stand up, I really do,” he said. “I believe in his message.” 

Schaffer, a University of Virginia graduate who studied history and African-American studies, learned about Morris’ event through another group he is a part of called “Burgers for Bernie,” which Schaffer said has contact with the national campaign. 

Schaffer has been involved with organizing debate watch parties, distributing merchandise, scheduling, getting permits, outfitting events technologically, and more. Because of his experience, Schaffer felt he would be a big help to Morris, who he had not met previously. 

“Derek didn’t have experience in the same way that our group does,” Schaffer said. “I wanted to make sure everything was done by the book.”

Sophomore psychology major Lauren Ortego is one of the Point Park students planning to attend the event. She is not new to political activism, having previously participated in the 2015 anti-racism event “Mass March Against the Racist Wars at Home and Abroad” as well as the 2015 anti-rape event “Take Back the Night.” This will be her first time voting, however. 

“I used to think that young people should stay out of politics because it just wasn’t our place; we weren’t adults yet,” Ortego said. “But then whenever I turned 18 and registered to vote, and now with the election coming up, I think it’s very important. I’ve never felt this strongly about politics before.” 

It is primarily the socialist political message of Sanders’ campaign that really resonates with Ortego. 

“I like the way he talks. I like how he appeals to millennials, but not the way Hillary Clinton does,” Ortego said. The distillation of Clinton’s appeals to millennials is her doing the “Whip/Nae Nae” dance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Ortego said, giggling. “He talks about what we want to hear: free education, helping the people, making sure the top one percent doesn’t hog all the money in our country, and he talks about ‘Black Lives Matter,’ which is something really important to me.” 

Another Point Park student planning to attend is sophomore theater major Maia Gilmour.

“This is kind of the first time I’ve been involved in politics at all,” Gilmour said. “And I think that says a lot about who Bernie is as a candidate because I was never really interested in politics and I never really saw the importance of politics until I heard what he had to say.” 

For Gilmour, the other candidates for president just can’t compete with Sanders. 

“He has the ability to recognize the hardships of all different types of people, not just people like himself,” Gilmour said.   

These two Point Park students are within the demographic of Sanders supporters under attack by Gloria Steinem, a well-known and lauded feminist writer and activist who disparaged young women supporting Sanders instead of Clinton on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ [and] the boys are with Bernie,” Steinem said in an interview with Maher. 

Ortego and Gilmour were both aware of this statement, and, suffice to say, were not happy when they heard it. 

“I got so mad after I read that,” said Ortego. “To say that girls are only voting for Bernie Sanders because that’s how the boys are voting? That’s not how you get young women to vote with you.”

It’s not just that the statement is unlikely to get young women to vote for Clinton that upsets these two Sanders supporters. 

“I think that is very inaccurate, and I think it goes against a lot of the beliefs of feminism itself,” Gilmour said. “It’s suggesting that women don’t have the intelligence to choose a candidate and that they should just choose the female because ‘it’s their time.’”  

Ortego added that she appreciates that Sanders’ is further to the left economically than Clinton, and Gilmour pointed out his honesty. They both think he is more consistent as well. 

It isn’t just young female Bernie Sanders supporters who are receiving gendered criticism, but males too. The term “Bernie Bro,” which describes sexist Sanders supporters, has become popular as the Sanders campaign has gained traction. 

“I mean, there are millions of people involved in his campaign, so we’re talking about a lot of different people with different reasons for supporting this candidate. Are some of those people going to be sexist? Yeah,” said Schaffer. “Are they going to be people who are principally motivated by sexism? I don’t know, I think they’d probably support someone like Trump if that was the case.” 

Sanders is a special guy for these supporters, not because they’re looking for boys or because they illicit sexist feelings toward Clinton, but because his message speaks to them. 

“Bernie is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate,” Schaffer said.