Kevin Shea Adams

Bernie Sanders Takes Downtown L.A.

Playboy, March 26 2019 [link]

An immersive look at the Vermont Senator and his followers on the march to 2020.

Written and photographed by

Those who came to see Bernie Sanders in downtown L.A. on Saturday afternoon were greeted at the gate by a kind of ad hoc welcoming committee. Formed in loose rows, this constantly revolving group threw up high fives, welcoming each and every person as they passed through security and onto the lawn of Grand Park.

Much would soon be said on the topic of “radical ideas,” but IRL political events are at this point almost a radical idea themselves. Whether folks had been hunkered down, weathering a political storm they feel helpless against, or had worn themselves out mashing buttons in the vacuum of volleying avatars, the momentary touches provided at the gate seemed for many like the first human contact in four endless years.

Neil Young provided the loudspeaker processional while the crowd grew—“Rockin’ in The Free World,” the same song that would later signal the end of the event, played back just about as loud as when Neil plays it himself. Between the Sandernistas and migrating waves of patched denim, there were Garfunkels, weirdos, bookish dads and would-be dads, kids, and a disproportionally large number of people who, like myself, rolled solo.

Laura Jean Anderson 

By the time Laura Jean Anderson finished her Joplin-level delivery of three original songs, the crowd had spilled onto the steps of City Hall. (Angelenos are always late, but they do show up.)

Artemis Bell

Anderson was followed up by a neo-Appalachian violin rendition of the National Anthem and several speakers, including an incredibly moving speech from an overnight custodian at Disneyland, a woman named Artemis Bell.

Ohio State Senator Nina Turner

In the penultimate speech leading up to Bernie, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner returned again and again to a concept of Bernie’s “lived experience,” as if to contrast his long career in politics with the pseudo-political qualifications of the entrepreneur, or perhaps the abstract and “unlived” experience of everything we see on our screens. “With Bernie,” Turner said, “we’ve got the receipts.”

As Sanders finally took the stage the microphone’s volume at least doubled, either on account of the crew finally perfecting the its signal or due to his infamously problematic ability to project his voice. Addressing at one point the skyscrapers in the distance, many of which are occupied by insurance companies, Sanders could be heard in all his glottal intensity reflecting off of the Los Angeles skyline. Here in 2019, the often criticized monotonous (or, as some complain, repetitive) Bernie Bellow didn’t feel nearly as off-putting or unwarranted as it may have almost four years ago.


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Logo illustration by Matt Huynh.