Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.t.) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) railed against corporate greed both in Detroit and across the country during a Sunday rally at Cass Technical High School.
“We live in a district where billionaires get hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, while our schools close and while the ones that stay open had their water turned off because it was unsafe to drink, including right here at Cass Tech,” Tlaib said.
“I want you to let that just sink in for a moment. This building we are at, right here, just a couple blocks away from Little Caesars Arena, whose billionaire owners received $324 million in tax breaks in exchange for broken promises of jobs and housing. They took millions away from our schools.”
Tlaib endorsed Sanders in a video released by the campaign during the rally and praised the senator during her speech.
“We are awake, eyes wide open, to the threat corporate greed poses to our lives. We have organized, we have marched and rallied. But where is our political leadership?” Tlaib said.
“We deserve a president who understands that the corporate assault on our lives existed before Trump, and it will exist after Trump. Someone who will never back down from a fight with the wealthy and the powerful, who will call them out and will bring our movement to their front yards. Someone who looks at a problem and finds the most transformative solutions, who isn’t constrained by the corporate conventional wisdom of what’s possible or worth fighting for. … We deserve someone who writes the damn bills. We deserve Bernie Sanders.”
Tlaib is the third member of the “Squad” of progressive freshmen congresswomen to endorse Sanders in recent weeks, following his heart attack and the fourth debate in Ohio. U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) previously came out for Sanders.
There were initial reports that Tlaib was endorsing him along with them, but she put out a statement on Oct. 16 that she was holding off at that point, saying it was “critically important to me to involve my residents and my district in every major decision I make.”
Other Michigan members of Congress who have endorsed Democrats for president include U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
Before the rally, Sanders joined Tlaib for a tour of her 13th Congressional District, which includes the most polluted zip code in the state of Michigan. Warren also previously joined Tlaib.
“We see how our children are struggling to breathe because corporate polluters have poisoned our water, our air,” Tlaib said. “Growing up, I even thought, I honestly thought, that smell was normal. That I deserved to breathe that kind of air.”
“Rashida took me around her district here in Detroit, and I met with beautiful young people who are going to schools in which they don’t have adequate textbooks,” Sanders said. “They are going to schools where their teachers are forced to work two or three jobs just to make a living. I don’t think it is too much to ask that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world we pay our teachers a living salary and that we provide the best quality education in the world for our kids.”
Sanders said that the biggest hurdle to enacting a progressive agenda isn’t Republicans or the wealthy, but rather everyday people’s imaginations.
“The most important, most significant opposition we face is not from the political establishment, it is not from the ruling class of this country, it is not from the corporate media. The most significant form of opposition we face is the limitation to our imaginations,” Sanders said. “If you think it can’t be done; if you think you are powerless; if you think the future only belongs to the rich and the powerful — then that’s the future you’ll have. But if you believe that when we stand united, that when we stand for justice, that when we are prepared to take on the corporate elite, when we believe that there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders added that “people all over this country are losing hope. They are worried that their children will have a lower standard of living than they do; they are worried that their lives are going nowhere. They are turning to drugs, they are turning to alcohol and, in some cases, they are turning to suicide. Our job is to restore hope in America. Our job is to create a society in which all of our people have the opportunity to live long, happy and productive lives.”
Sanders praised Tlaib during his speech.
“Look, it’s easy in Congress to vote the right way. But what Rashida has been doing in the less than one year, less than a year, that she has been in office, she has become a national figure, not just in standing up to the vulgarity and ugliness of [President] Donald Trump, which she has, but she has taken on in a very forceful way the greed and corruption of the economic establishment, and she has stood up to the political establishment as well,” Sanders said. “I will look to her for her leadership in Congress under a Sanders administration.”
While Sanders touted her as a national figure, Tlaib talked about her roots in Detroit.
“I cannot freaking believe I’m up here. … I am so humbled to think about where my journey started. I sometimes freak out, y’all,” Tlaib said, calling the attendees her original squad. “I am serving the only way I know how: unapologetically myself, unbossed and unbought.”
“As you know, the occupant of the White House told me and my sisters in service to go back home,” Tlaib said. “Well, Mr. President, I am home. I haven’t forgotten … where I came from, where my roots are. I grew up in the most beautiful, blackest city in the country.”
Both Sanders and the congresswoman memorialized the late U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., Tlaib’s predecessor who died Sunday at age 90.
“One of the things I do as an organizer is sometimes I bring people into the space that can’t be with us. And so I want to take a moment to recognize our forever congressman John Conyers Jr., who transitioned today and joined the ancestors,” Tlaib said. “He never once wavered in fighting for us. He stood on issues of equality and civil rights for our people. He served us and fought for us for over 50 years.”
Sanders called Conyers a “very dear friend of mine” and “your late, great congressman.”
“Tonight, we’re not here just to mourn John but to celebrate a life of enormous achievement,” he said. “As all of you know, John was a champion for civil rights, he was the man most responsible for having a national holiday for the great Martin Luther King Jr., and long before it was popular, John Conyers understood that health care is a human right.”
Detroit rocker Jack White played at the event. Before the rally, Sanders and Tlaib each pledged to donate $5,000 from their campaign accounts to help cover travel costs for the Cass Tech Marching Band to perform during the national Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C.
“Growing up in this incredibly strong community has taught me that when we come together, we reach our goals,” Tlaib said of the donation. “We stride and fight with love. We love each other. We love what we can be together. The strength in our communities in unmatched, our bonds unbreakable. We lead with compassion and with unflinching belief that every person deserves a good life, one with dignity and comfort – regardless of what we look like, where we were born or what we believe.”
Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.