Rev. Jesse Jackson endorses Bernie Sanders at Grand Rapids Rally


Courtesy / Scott Olson, Getty Images

Nathan Slauer, Staff Reporter

The Rev. Jesse Jackson announced his support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president during a rally in Grand Rapids on Sunday, March 8.

Several thousand audience members cheered when Jackson arrived to deliver his speech in downtown Calder Plaza.

Jackson, a clergyman, became the second African-American to mount a nationwide run for president of the United States when he announced his candidacy in 1983. The civil rights icon rose to prominence by working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and founding Operation People United to Save Humanity, an organization that promoted black self-help and organized boycotts.

During his remarks, Jackson praised Sanders for his lifelong advocacy for civil rights and empowering minority communities.

“When we’re together, everybody wins,” Jackson said. “Everybody in, nobody out.”

Additional guest speakers included former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed, former U.S. Senator Don Riegle and former United Auto Workers President Bob King.

When Sanders took the stage, he described how the Rainbow Coalition, a multiracial movement founded by Jackson in 1969, paved the way for Barack Obama to become the first African-American president of the United States. Sanders expressed his desire to build upon Jesse’s legacy by fighting against all forms of discrimination.

“Now what Jesse Jackson has spent his whole life talking about and that I believe is that campaigns like this are not about me, they’re about us,” Sanders said. “This campaign is of course about a presidential election, but it’s about more than that. It’s about creating a movement.”

In a wide-ranging speech, Sanders promoted universal health care, criminal justice reform and a national $15 minimum wage. Underlying these policies was a call for people of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to unify in favor of a progressive platform and defeating President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

“How do we unify the American people?” Sanders said. “I’ll tell you how. You give them an agenda that all working people support.

Sanders expressed confidence in his campaign’s ability to win Michigan and recapture the momentum that propelled him to victory against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic Primary.

“Back in 1988, Jesse Jackson won this state,” Sanders said. “In 2016, I won this state. On Tuesday, if we stick together, we’re going to win it again.”

With 125 delegates up for grabs, Michigan represented a key battleground state for the Sanders campaign. Sanders faced an uphill battle against former Vice President Joe Biden, who gained momentum after winning nine of the fourteen states that voted on Super Tuesday.

Following his victory, Biden made appearances in Detroit and Grand Rapids, touting recent endorsements from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and former presidential candidates Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

The Michigan primary swung in Biden’s favor, with Biden earning 53 percent of the vote and Sanders earning 36 percent of the vote.