By Sophie Hayes
A massive line led to Rainier Beach High School on Tuesday evening, snaking through the school’s parking lot and wrapping around the blocks surrounding the building.
The thousands who turned out were waiting to hear Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton speak before Saturday’s Washington State Democratic caucus.
Clinton spoke to nearly 1,500 people shortly after winning the Arizona democratic primary earlier in the night.
However, hundreds were left standing outside of the school; not all could fit into its gymnasium.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray introduced Clinton at the rally. Murray, who officially endorsed her earlier that day, telling the Seattle Times that the former secretary of state, “understands big-city issues,” told the crowd that he sees parallels between her national agenda and Seattle’s local one. He pointed to work on affordable housing, minimum wage and police reform as city concerns that aligned with Clinton’s.
The presidential candidate began her speech by recognizing the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, emphasizing the importance of keeping the country safe. She then addressed the campaigns of Republican Presidential Candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, claiming that inciting fear with regards to terrorism is wrong and dangerous. She then asserted that she would,“take the fight to ISIS.”
Murray also piled on the Republican presidential frontrunner: “We must make sure that Donald Trump never becomes the President of the United States.”
Clinton discussed the importance of having confidence and optimism going into the future. While many believe America’s best days are behind us, she urged the audience to believe the opposite.
Both Murray and Clinton recognized the significance of the rally’s location: Rainier Beach High School. Clinton acknowledged the academic success of student’s at the South End school. “It makes me proud to see what this school is accomplishing.”
Prior to her trip to Rainier Beach, Clinton gave a labor union speech in Everett, and met with tribal leaders in Puyallup. She also attended a private fundraiser in Medina hosted by Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman and his wife, philanthropist Susan Brotman. Tickets went for $2,700.
After a long day spent mostly in the northern part of the city, Clinton finished it in the South End.
Throughout Tuesday night’s rally, Clinton’s supporters were enthusiastic.
Prior to her arrival, the crowd cheered and chanted: “I believe that she will win,” as they waved American flags and Clinton campaign signs. A handful of Rainier Beach students were selected to be on stage behind Clinton during the broadcast.
Clinton spoke of her support of labor unions and the importance of creating jobs in manufacturing. She also discussed climate change and the possibility of creating jobs in renewable energy. But the crowd cheered the loudest when Clinton said it’s time to guarantee equal pay for women’s work.
Clinton’s take on student debt also had a strong reaction from the crowd. She said as president she will fight for free community college and debt-free four-year college. She pointed to her opponent Sanders, saying that unlike making college free for everyone, she will focus on middle-class, working and poor families.
“Personally, I think if you can afford to send your child to college, like Donald Trump, we should not pay for you to send your child for free.”
Among other issues, Clinton discussed her support of nurses and universal healthcare. Clinton concluded her speech by returning to the importance of keeping the country safe.
“This is about not only selecting a president, but also selecting a commander in chief. We need to be sure that we have those smart, steady hands because we’re going to face a lot of challenges, but also opportunities that the United States has to lead on,” she said
Again pointing to Trump and Cruz, Clinton said citizens and politicians need to find common ground and cease with divisive language.
Though most attendees at the rally were Clinton supporters, there were some pro-Sanders protesters, including one person who wore a chicken mask and waved a Bernie sign at cars after the rally let out.
City of Seattle Councilmember, and open socialist, Kshama Sawant carried a sign into the rally that read, “I’m not with her.”
After the speech, Clinton briefly spent time with supporters, chatting up and taking selfies with a few.
Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic Presidential nomination, rallied at Key Arena last Sunday, drawing more than 15,000 people.
Sanders is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday and Friday to hold three more rallies in Yakima, Spokane and Seattle prior to the state’s caucuses on Saturday.
Clinton currently holds 1,223 delegates to Sanders’ 920 in the Democratic primary race. A nominee needs 2,383 delegates to win the party’s nomination. Saturday’s caucus will determine how many of Washington’s 101 pledged delegates will represent each candidate at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Featured Image: Hillary Clinton at Rainier Beach High School (Photo by Alex Garland)