Despite a Gloomy Forecast, San Francisco Feels the Bern at Crissy Field

A Bernie Sanders supporter at Crissy Field in San Francisco, June 6, 2016. (Emma Silvers)

"Sure, you can take my photo, but you also have to take my flyer," says a man holding a sign with some factually tenuous statements about Hillary Clinton, walking down the line to get into the Bernie Sanders rally at Crissy Field. It's 4pm on Monday, June 6, just a few hours before the Associated Press will proclaim that Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination on the eve of the California primary, and roughly 15 hours before the polls open in this fine Golden State.

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But for many of the thousands of people convened at the park on this cold, foggy June evening, what the AP has to say is of very little concern. They're staging a movement -- a revolution -- and it will be Periscoped.

On the docket for the day's free rally, billed as A Future To Believe In GOTV (Get Out the Vote) Concert, are Dave Matthews, Fantastic Negrito, Fishbone, Yarn and speakers Dr. Cornel West, Shailene Woodley and Danny Glover.

And, of course, the Bern himself, fresh from an appearance in the Mission District. From the looks of the line to get in, very few people came for anyone else.

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"I think he definitely still has a chance. But I do hope if he loses that he considers running as Hillary's vice president; I hope she asks him," said Brittny O'Connor, a teacher in her thirties who traveled from San Jose. "If not, I'll probably vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party, like I usually do."

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With entrepreneurs hawking shirts, hats and pins in every direction, the vibe at Crissy Field felt akin to that of the pedestrian bridge between the Oakland Coliseum BART station and Oracle Arena before and after a Warriors game. Maybe a little less drunken stumbling. Likely more white people with dreadlocks. Certainly no less enthusiasm.

"Are those shirts union-made?" asked one woman who looked to be in her 70s, of a T-shirt salesman. "If they are, they should be about $50 each," said another in her 20s. Laughter all around.

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Yes, spirits were high at Crissy Field yesterday -- and that's not just thanks to Bernie's Papers, the official Bernie Sanders-branded rolling papers being sold in the photo below.

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Bernie's Papers proprietor Michael Jones and his partner Rissy Berliner raised money to make the trek out from rural Virginia to California during election crunch time, they told me; 10 percent of profits go to "the people's revolution."

"What are you supposed to roll in them?" asked a nearby woman in her 60s. "Whatever's legal in your state," Jones replied, not missing a beat.

The Bernie Dog. Photo by Che Chao Hsu / Facebook
The Bernie Dog. Photo by Che Chao Hsu / Facebook

Past the security gates, as the fog rolled in, the Bernie throngs stood -- and eventually sat or laid down -- in layers of down vests and beanies. Doors were technically at 3pm; the Brooklyn Americana band Yarn took the stage around 4:15, noting how humbled they were to be added to the bill at the last minute.

Hippies, punks, and stiltwalkers were all welcome. In between speakers and performers, the P.A. blared music clearly intended to illustrate Sanders' alignment with the counterculture: Dead Kennedys, Janelle Monae, Against Me!.

I didn't catch any Black Flag being played, nor any speeches by Che Guevara, but that doesn't mean they weren't well represented as presumptive agents of Sanders' message -- while roughly 500 miles away, Hillary Clinton hosted a decidedly not-free concert and fundraiser event featuring John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera, and Cher.

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In SF, Dave Matthews, who performed a handful of songs solo with a guitar, provided an interesting contrast to the younger, more diverse definition of counterculture -- "my mom loves Bernie Sanders," said the inventor of white college-rock mumblecore, on numerous occasions.

Despite my knee-jerk distaste for this particular branch of the jam-band family tree, I will admit that "Ants Marching" sounded pretty darn okay. Fun fact: Bill Clinton was president when that record was released.

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But it was between sets by the spirited Fantastic Negrito (Oakland hometown hero that he is, with a new album to boot) and old-school funk vets Fishbone (who tweaked their single "Everyday Sunshine" to include lyrics about Bernie), however, that I encountered my most enthusiastic Bernie supporter of the day.

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"I'm looking for a petite lady," said Evan Gary Hirsch, the founder of the Facebook group Bernie Loves Us, by way of introduction. Hirsch, I learned, had purchased lots of shirts in bulk and was now trying to give them away. All he had left was a women's small, and he wanted me to wear it.

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Evan Gary Hirsch

"Bernie Sanders changed my life entirely," said Hirsch, noting that he's donated $2,700 to Sanders' campaign, and now routinely buys merchandise and tries to give it away. "Bernie awakened my purpose for life."

Among the goals Hirsch has pursued following his Bernie awakening: The creation of a sustainable planet. Also, the creation of a Facebook group with 9,000 people in it. "It was just tying in the word 'love' with 'Bernie,' so that we could really have not just a political revolution, but a revolution of our consciousness and our spirit and motivation, to resolve all of the issues that are so clearly suffocating us," he explained. "It took a voice like Bernie, a call to action, to say 'Hey, there's a machine eating our planet!' for us to come forward to participate in tipping that scale toward the love paradigm." Also, ideally, 3D printing is going to make it so we don't have to work anymore and can spend all our time being creative. As for voting, if Bernie doesn't get the nomination, Hirsch said he'll do "whatever Bernie tells [him] to."

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A few feet away -- as Dr. Cornel West took the stage and proclaimed that Bernie Sanders has a little bit of John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' in him -- one couple offered a more succinct explanation for the Bern they've been feeling.

"I liked [Bernie] the minute I saw him," said the woman, who goes by Jenni Wretched. She added, somewhat deflated, that she would indeed be voting for Hillary if Bernie doesn't win the nomination. "Unfortunately, there's no other option."

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Jenni Wretched plus one.

As the temperature dropped and the hordes grew impatient to see the man himself, tired children were hoisted onto shoulders; sweatshirt hoods were pulled tight around faces. A girl next to me, a recent transplant who lives in the Marina, asked if I knew how long Bernie usually talked for. She kind of wanted to go home, she said, but she was holding her friends' jackets -- they were among 40 or so people who'd been selected to jump and wave signs just to the right of the stage, perfectly set against the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, perfectly in line for the news cameras. She gestured over at them; they looked cold.

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After a who's-who of local progressives, flanked by his family, Bernie spoke. You don't need me to recap it: you can watch the whole thing here. He comes on around 1:25, or you can skip right to the end and watch a performance of "This Land Is Your Land," featuring Sanders' guest musicians for the day.

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And then? People scattered, headed home. Many had been on their feet for a good six hours. And they had to get up and vote tomorrow before work, after all. But not before a pit stop.

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