Diversity. It’s the first thing I noticed at Thursday’s Bernie Sanders rally at De Anza College. People from many faiths and nationalities, split evenly between men and women spanning five decades, were all equally enthusiastic and sporting lots of Bernie swag.
The Rock the Campus tour featured actors Max Carver, Kendrick Sampson and Danny Glover dashing from San Jose State University to San Jose City College to De Anza (then sans Glover) to Stanford and finally ending at University of California, Berkeley.
— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) May 12, 2016
The De Anza Students for Bernie Sanders had tons of campaign giveaways, voter registration, volunteer forms, fantastic handmade signage and a sound system that kept the crowd amped.
A team of informed and enthusiastic students tirelessly hoisted Bernie signs, making announcements at class intervals and asking passersby if they were registered to vote. I’ve worked national campaigns before and seen the celebrity stump speech and the meet-and-greets, but this was completely different.
Carver and Sampson spoke from the heart, taking the time for one-on-one discussions to sway undecided voters to “Feel the Bern.”
Carver, of Adult Swim’s Filthy Preppy Teen$ fame, implored the crowd to make sure people are ready to participate in the upcoming elections.
“Talk to five friends, make sure they’re registered to vote,” he said.“It’s your fundamental right … people have died for your right to vote.”
Sampson, best known for his role on the Vampire Diaries, referenced his 13 nieces and nephews, some who are Latino, when speaking of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and his anti-Mexican rhetoric.
“We need a ‘YUGE’ voter turnout in California,” Sampson said, referencing Sanders' New York accent.“Latinos are not usually spoken to in politics. … Justice belongs to them. Basic human rights belong to everyone.”
When asking the crowd to volunteer, both spoke of fellow actor Shailene Woodley, who they say phone banks for Bernie between scenes. They noted that Woodley was on her way to the Rock the Campus tour, until being called back to set.
Carver and Sampson also noted that neither were paid operatives of the campaign, which was a surprise to many. If you’re willing to fly around the country on your own dime, have three guys from Michigan—tapped by the campaign two days prior—attempt to Waze you through five Bay Area campus stops in a day, you must really believe in your cause.
The trio took so long at De Anza, helping register more than 100 voters and sign up nearly 60 volunteers, that the Michiganders were worried about making the rest of their stops. It seemed like time well spent for the campaign though, as the crowd was certainly engaged.
This was also the inaugural event for the Mountain View Tenants Coalition’s effort to get rent control and “just cause” tenant protections on the ballot. If you live in Mountain View, keep an eye out for a friendly petitioner seeking signatures.
Since both Carver and Sampson live in Los Angeles, which faces a housing and homeless crisis similar to San Jose’s, I asked them how electing Bernie could affect those issues.
“Not enough attention is paid to local issues and that’s the way to effect change,” Carver told me as we dashed to the next event.
He added that we need a national $15 minimum wage because people can’t change their lives if they’re working all the time.
Sampson—who speeds up, making it a little more difficult to keep pace since one of us is wearing heels—said the answer to homelessness is equality.
“Give all people equal opportunity,” he said. “Treat mental illness properly. Keep nonviolent drug offenders out of jails. End racial disparity in law enforcement. And that’s what Bernie Sanders believes in.”
Shaunn Cartwright is an activist, housing rights advocate and co-founder of South Bay Tenants Union. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.
This column has been updated.