Bernie Sanders’ policies, personality draw support at Penn State

Bernie Sanders spoke Tuesday at Penn State.
Bernie Sanders spoke Tuesday at Penn State. adrey@centredaily.com

With the Pennsylvania presidential primary elections a week away, thousands of people packed Rec Hall on Tuesday to see Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at Penn State.

Students were among the people who started to file in as soon as the doors opened at 4 p.m.

Many of those students said they were supporters of the Democratic presidential candidate. Some said they were drawn to Sanders because of his policies; others because they said there were simply no better candidates.

Cat Adams, a Penn State student, was among the Sanders supporters at the rally. Despite being a registered Republican, she said she supports Sanders because she doesn’t like any of the Republican candidates.

“The rhetoric of the Republican candidates is discriminatory,” Adams, a senior, said. “It’s built upon alienating people.”

Adams said she supports Sanders over Hillary Clinton because she “thinks Hillary is a liar.”

Sean Byrne, who graduated from Penn State in 2013, stood with Benjamin Phillippi with a little more than an hour before the start of Sanders’ speech.

Byrne is a registered nurse at Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital, where he works with people with disabilities. He said one of the reasons he’s voting for Sanders is because he’s a supporter of affordable health care, which is one of his proposed policies.

Grace Swales, a freshman at Penn State, said she doesn’t agree with all of Sanders’ ideas. However, she called Sanders the “only person that has morals out of all the other political candidates.”

Amid the many Sanders supporters in Rec Hall were some students who opposed the presidential hopeful.

Members of Penn State’s Students for Trump club gathered outside Rec Hall at 10 a.m. Tuesday to get inside Sanders’ rally early. They said they weren’t going to protest Sanders’ speech, but rather they wanted to support the senator’s First Amendment rights to speak freely and uninterrupted at Penn State.

However, the group said it was not allowed to gather on the floor around Sanders’ platform. The members of Penn State’s Students for Trump said Sanders’ campaign said they could only sit in a specific section of Rec Hall, which was located cross-court from where Sanders was speaking.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous that we can’t go on the floor,” said Ryan Belz, who is the campus chairman of Penn State’s Students for Trump. “It ticks me off to no end.”

One student who wore a “Make America Great Again” cap, Tom Penrose, did make it to the floor for the speech.

Though not a Donald Trump supporter, Penrose said he wore the cap because he thought it would be funny. Still, he received a lot of dirty looks from Sanders supporters.

Penrose, a sophomore, said he doesn’t support any candidate still running for the presidency. Instead, he said he supports Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, a Libertarian, who at one point was running for the Republican ticket.

“I’ve always identified with Libertarians,” Penrose said. “I believe in regulating businesses and protecting our constitutional rights.”

Matt Martell is a Penn State journalism student.