Denver Feels the Bern
Last Saturday, February 13, I attended the campaign rally for Bernie Sanders at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center. The campaign claims 18,000 people made it inside. Based on reports I received from other attendees, thousands more were turned away once the event hit its max capacity.
To give you some idea of how many people showed up, the line at the Convention Center started at the escalators near Exhibit D, located on the back end of the building. This line stretched all the way to the front lobby, out the front doors, down 14th Street, across Welton to Speer, across Speer, then back up Stout to 14th. In other words, all the way through and around the complex, or roughly half a mile.
Sanders was introduced by a number of Colorado locals, one from each major racial demographic: a Chicano community leader, a Japanese-American physician, a Caucasian educator, and a black reverend with the NAACP. Then Sanders strolled out on stage, and the crowd went nuts.
Even with the crowd’s hair-raising energy, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist appeared a bit haggard. That Sanders was exhausted shouldn’t be surprising, since he’s spent weeks sparring with the Democratic Party’s front-running heavy-weight, Hillary Clinton. His voice came across a bit raspier than usual, probably because of our state’s elevation and dry air.
Despite the hype, Sanders said nothing new, however. If you’re familiar with his talking points, he reiterated each of these for the Colorado audience. And yes, he gave an approving nod to our state’s legalization efforts.
In the middle of his speech, Sanders stated that people were still going to jail for consuming, possessing, and cultivating a plant. “But not in Colorado,” he noted, which incited deafening applause.
“If young people in forty-six other states get arrested for possession of marijuana,” Sanders continued, “they get a police record. But if you are an executive of Wall Street, who reaches a settlement for $5 billion for illegal behavior, you don’t get a police record. You get a pay raise. That is a broken criminal justice system.”
Not in Colorado, indeed. If a Senate bill Sanders introduced last year passes, cannabis could become federally descheduled, effectively legalizing it nationwide. (Likely, the bill won’t pass.)
So it’s fitting that Cannabis sativa, Denver’s favorite plant, also made an appearance at the rally, but not as a guest. It wasn’t even permitted inside.
Nichole Villano, a Sanders supporter who managed to become one of the lucky 18,000, stood in line for hours. While standing around, she noticed something curious by the metal detectors which acted as the gateways into the main arena. She said, “The contraband boxes were completely full—not with knives, guns or any sharp objects. They were full of electronic cigarettes.”
Aaron Gaywood, another Sanders supporter, added to Villano's observation. “Hash pens,” he said. “The boxes were full of hash pens. You couldn’t even see the bottoms of the boxes.”
I myself discovered that, after I stepped through the metal detectors for press access, Secret Service had confiscated my Bic lighter. Likely a precautionary measure in the event someone tried to commit arson or ignite a shoe-bomb.
But I couldn’t help but wonder: was the Secret Service afraid that this writer from Sensi might try to light up in the middle of a public event? Of course, I would never do such a thing. That’s what the 4/20 Rally is for.
Denver Rally for Bernie Sanders, February 13, 2016. Video by Randy Robinson for Sensi Magazine