Bernie Sanders brings supporters in huge numbers to UB
Students wait in line for hours just to hear Democratic presidential candidate speak
So many people weren’t able to enter Berne Sanders’ rally after Alumni Arena reached capacity that the Democratic presidential candidate took the time to address the crowd outside in the rain.
Sanders’ visit to UB Monday night drew approximately 11,000 people, with more than 8,000 actually making it into Alumni Arena for the rally and another 3,000 who stood outside after the building was full.
Sanders’ rally made North Campus a crowded and hectic scene throughout the entire day, with a line forming outside Alumni Arena as early as 8 a.m. and eventually wrapping all the way behind UB Stadium. Those who didn’t make it inside watched Sanders’ speech on a video board outside the arena.
Although doors would not open until 4 p.m. and Sanders would not speak until 7 p.m., attendees began lining up outside Alumni Arena as early as 8 a.m. Monday.
Brooke Kirisits, Dylan Batley and Kaleigh Ferguson, all of Niagara Falls and non UB students, were the first three people in line and prepared themselves for the long wait with snacks and blue ponchos.
“We look at his other rallies and he’s got 10,000 people coming out, so we just wanted to be sure we could get in,” Batley said while waiting in line Monday morning. “We know it’s a smaller venue. We just wanted to take no chances.”
Dominic Lauricella, a sophomore media study major, was the first UB student in line after arriving outside Alumni Arena around 9:30 a.m. Lauricella likes Sanders’ relatability.
“When he says stuff, you’re not like, ‘OK, he’s saying that to cater to the Latino vote, the black vote.’ He’s saying that because he thinks that and he means that,” Lauricella said in line Monday morning.
The line grew larger through the day until it eventually winded up all the way behind UB Stadium. A half an hour before doors opened, Sanders campaign workers estimated there were already 4,000 people in line. The line crossed over Augspurger Road, with a University Police officer directing traffic.
Azmatullah Mustahsan, a junior political science major, waited in the rain for more than four and a half hours to see Sanders.
“Seeing a presidential candidate is a rare opportunity,” Mustahsan said. “It’s even rarer to see a candidate you support, whose ideas and policies you agree with.”
About 3,000 people didn’t get into Alumni, but Sanders spoke to the crowd before entering Alumni to give his speech.
Hannah Olek, a senior art history major at Canisius College, was one of those standing outside the arena when Sanders addressed the crowd. She got in line between 4:20 to 4:30 p.m. but capacity was reached before she finally got to the door. She said Sanders made shorter blanket statements and focused on gender equality.
“I feel like it’s something important,” Olek said. “It’s a huge election, the biggest in our lifetime so far. It’s great to get out there and see what the candidates have to say, even if you don’t vote in the primary.”
Sanders’ campaign gave the Student Association, which officially invited Sanders to UB after students began an online petition, 500 priority tickets that would allow students to skip the general admission line at the rally.
Students began lining up outside the SA office in the Student Union as early as 7 a.m. Monday to get a priority ticket. Although SA was originally going to begin distributing tickets at 11 a.m., the long line prompted safety concerns and tickets were handed out nearly an hour early. By the time SA began to give out tickets, it estimated there were already more than 500 students in line. Five hundred tickets were gone in 45 minutes.
Some students decided to forgo the general admission line that formed outside Alumni Arena because they were under the impression they could not get in the without a priority ticket.
“I thought you needed a ticket to get in, so once I didn’t get one I figured I wouldn’t be able to go,” said Tyler Dash, a senior economics major.
Afterward, Sanders shook the hands of those who stood along the railing surrounding the podium and stopped to take selfies with supporters.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz will hold a much smaller town hall meeting at UB on Thursday.
Tom Dinki contributed reporting.
Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at email@example.com.