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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallies supporters, honors John Conyers

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallied his supporters Sunday during a raucous campaign stop in Detroit.

But before many in the crowd got to hear Sanders’ usual political attacks on the nation’s billionaires and President Donald Trump, the rally paused for a somber reflection.

Shortly before the rally began, word started filtering into the auditorium that longtime Detroit Congressman John Conyers had died. Conyers represented Detroit in Congress for 53 years.

Before she introduced Sanders, Detroit Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib praised Conyers’ legacy. She was elected to fill Conyers’ seat in 2018.

“He never once wavered in fighting for us,” Tlaib said of the man. “He stood on issues of equality and civil rights for our people.”

When he took the stage, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders echoed Tlaib’s praise.

“John was a champion for civil rights,” said Sanders, noting that Conyers played a pivotal role in creating a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.

After that, Sanders turned to the main reason why many in the crowd had come. (Though there were some in the high school gymnasium who appeared more excited by the 30 minute set Detroit music legend Jack White delivered before the speeches).

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
About 30 supporters of Pres. Donald Trump held a counter rally outside the high school gymnasium where Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held his rally on Sunday

Sanders played the ‘hits’ himself. 

The crowd cheered his calls for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

The crowd booed when Sanders invoked billionaires and President Donald Trump.

While the speech was well received inside the Cass Tech high school gymnasium, it would not have played so well to a much smaller crowd outside.

About 30 Donald Trump supporters held a counter rally across the street.

They were there to protest Sanders, socialism and the impeachment inquiry. The group’s message was not just aimed at Democrats.

Organizer Meshawn Maddock is with Michigan Republicans Trump 2020 and other GOP groups.

She says they want to make sure any Republican members of Congress wavering on impeachment will face a primary challenge next year.

“There are people who are part of the swamp on both sides of the party. We all know that,” says Maddock, “and all of those people need to move out of the way for the new party. President Trump is the Republican Party now.”

Maddock pointed to West Michigan congressman Justin Amash as an example. After voicing support for an impeachment inquiry, Amash switched his political affiliation from Republican to Independent and now faces a crowded field as he runs for re-election.

As they left the high school gym, Sanders’ supporters were clearly energized.   

The Vermont Senator will need all the energized supporters he can get.

While Bernie Sanders won Michigan’s 2016 Democratic primary, he currently is running third in most national polls.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.