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On Friday night, the line to get into Elizabeth Warren’s Laney College town hall stretched for blocks. Although organizers moved the event from the gymnasium to the soccer field, it still took the huge crowd two hours to make it through the gate.
Despite the wait, the crowd was in good spirits, cheering at Warren’s proposals to end corruption in Washington and booing references to the Koch brothers. Warren made few references to big tech during her speech, focusing instead on the influence of money in politics and issues facing the middle class.
Warren didn’t take crowd questions, which she blamed on the late hour. Instead, she opted to address a few topics she’s been asked about frequently at prior town halls. The first was gun violence.
“It’s not just the mass shootings. It’s the ones that never make the headlines. It’s the kids who are shot at the playground, on the sidewalk, in their own homes. Gun violence touches families every day,” she said. “On the question of gun violence, I will be fearless.”
She also dedicated significant time to student loan debt, the needs of working mothers and the importance of Medicaid, a safety net for millions that often lands in Republican crosshairs.
After her speech, Warren stuck around for selfies with hundreds of attendees who were undeterred by the chill.
Rachel Johnson-Farias arrived at the rally a Warren fan already. “She’s the only politician right now with a concrete plan – and she has a concrete plan for everything,” she said.
Johnson-Farias, who was joined by her husband and two young children, said she is particularly in favor of Warren’s calls for free universal child care and preschool.
She also noted that the crowd was significantly more white than the city around it. Nearly two-thirds of Oakland residents are people of color.
“I was pretty sold before, but now I’m more committed to getting out and campaigning, especially in communities of color,” Johnson-Farias said after Warren’s speech. “I’m hoping to get more people of color in the fight.”
Jordan Long-Copes, a Laney student who dropped out of Moorehouse College with two years of accumulated debt, hopes Warren’s star continues to rise. He appreciates her straight-forward approach to explaining policy proposals, something he thinks other Democratic candidates have failed to do.
As for the misogynistic rhetoric so common in American politics, the successes of politicians like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY and Ilhan Omar, D-MN, have given him hope for 2020.
“Most Americans are sexist – like, 99%,” Long-Copes said. “But with Trump, I think nobody’s going to care anymore. If you’ll be a good president, people will vote for you.”