Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is facing backlash over his big rally in Queens over the weekend, with one community leader remarking that it seemed to be a “pretty white” event and others claiming that the Sanders campaign failed to properly reach out to the people of Queens.
Sanders held a massive rally at Queensbridge Park on Saturday, which featured special guests Michael Moore and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), both of whom gave their formal endorsements.
“We need a United States that really, truly, and authentically is operated, owned, and decided by working — and all — people in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the rally.
“That is what it — it is multiracial, multigendered, multigenerational, and multigeographic,” she continued, adding, “We have to come together, not ignoring our differences but listening to them, prioritizing them, understanding injustice.”
Sanders appeared to choose Queens, in part, because it is “ground zero for the fight for public housing” and home to the country’s “largest public housing project” — something Ocasio-Cortez highlighted in her speech.
“Let’s acknowledge the ground that we are on, which is the ground zero for the fight for public housing and fully funded, dignified housing in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd on Saturday.
However, some residents of Queens, particularly residents of the Queensbridge Houses public housing development, say that the Sanders campaign snubbed them.
Queensbridge Tenants Association President April Simpson said the Sanders campaign did not seem to make significant efforts to reach out to Queensbridge residents. She said there were no flyers in the building advertising the event, although the Sanders campaign claims it did, in fact, hand some out.
Simpson said the Sanders campaign did not contact her until the day before the rally, which happened to coincide with the monthly tenant association meeting.
“These people were coming from near, far — but they weren’t from Queensbridge,” Simpson told Patch. “That rally wasn’t for us.”
As Patch reported:
A Sanders campaign spokesperson said the team handed out flyers to Queensbridge residents going in and out of their buildings on Friday, the day before the rally, and had reached out to Simpson as soon as they got her contact information and invited her to meet with Sanders.
But Simpson said she felt slighted.
“The residents that were sitting in the meeting, they said they found out from all the people going past,” Simpson added, calling the lack of outreach “disrespectful.”
Community leader Bishop Mitchell Taylor was also perturbed by the Sanders campaign’s purported lack of outreach and remarked that the event “seemed to be a pretty white rally.”
“They chose a picture over a population,” he said, according to Patch. “How could you use Queensbridge Park as your rallying point but not engage Queensbridge people as a part of the rally?”
“You’ve got the biggest projects in the world, and you didn’t even let the people there know what’s going on in their own neighborhood,” Queensbridge resident Billy Robinson told the outlet.
Simpson told Patch reporter Maya Kaufman that the Sanders campaign reached out to set up a meeting “with Sanders and Queensbridge community leaders” following the publication of the Patch article. The Sanders campaign maintained that it offered such a meeting the day prior to the rally, but Simpson denies that:
A Sanders campaign spokesperson, who would only speak to me on background, claimed the campaign offered this meeting Friday. Simpson says that isn't true.
I've asked for a copy of the flyer the campaign says they handed out Friday by Queensbridge but haven't gotten a response.
— Maya Kaufman (@mayakauf) October 22, 2019
Both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have emphasized the need to provide affordable housing for all. Sanders released a $1.5 trillion Housing for All plan which asserts that every American is entitled to a “decent” home.
“In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right,” Sanders’ proposal states. “We need a homes guarantee.”
Similarly, Ocasio-Cortez has put forth a massive “anti-poverty” proposal which gives illegal aliens access to public benefits and outlines a protections for renters under “The Place to Prosper Act.” The act “gives access to a ‘counsel fund’ for renters who are facing eviction and “imposes a national cap of 3% on annual rent increases and begins to pursue penalties” on what the freshman lawmaker calls ‘abusive and predatory landlords,'” as Breitbart News reported.