According to event organizers, about 200 people RSVP'd for the late- morning rally at the Community Concourse adjacent to City Hall, but only about 100 arrived by the time the march began shortly after 11 a.m. They could be heard chanting "hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greed has got to go'' before posing for a group photo.
“He’s not business as usual." Sanders supporter April Davis said. "I don’t see the country going in a good direction financially or diplomatically with the GOP and I want to be able to go, I travel around the world and I want to be proud. I don’t want to have to apologize for my president.”
"I appreciate him taking the risk for all of us. I feel he is the only honest candidate running,'' event organizer Jim Boydston of Bay Park said. "He's been in politics for over 35 years and nobody has been able to dig up any dirt on him.''
Boydston was a registered non-partisan voter who re-registered as a Democrat so he could vote for Sanders in California's June primary.
"He doesn't kowtow to the oligarchs,'' Boydston said. "We the people can get our government back.''
Sharon Edmons traveled from her home in Escondido to attend the rally and march. She wore a T-shirt declaring her support for Sanders and carried a handmade sign urging "take your vote back from billionaires, vote Bernie.''
"He addresses more of the issues and he's been the same for 35 years,'' Edmons said. "We know he's not going to flip-flop, he's not going to be beholden to corporate interests.''
The group marched for less than 30 minutes, accompanied by a police escort.
Bill Hargreaves of Escondido carried a sign that read "Bernie: a future to believe in.'' He said it was Sanders' consistency over the years that won Hargreaves' support.
"That makes us believe in him,'' Hargreaves said.
Sanders is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. at what his campaign is billing as "A Future to Believe In Rally'' at the San Diego Convention Center's Halls D and E.
Registration for the free event is full, according to his campaign. Boydston said they were expecting about 25,000 supporters at tonight's rally and expected an overflow room will be set up with a large video screen of the event to accommodate the crowd.
According to one supporter, she chose to march because the event reached maximum capacity. “I didn’t get in. Ten thousand and before I knew it it was already filled."
The Sanders campaign asked attendees to not bring bags and only carry small personal items such as keys and cellphones, for security reasons. Weapons, sharp objects, chairs, and signs or banners on sticks will not be allowed through security.
Parking is available for a fee at the convention center, and the campaign encouraged supporters to carpool or take public transit.
Sanders' visit to San Diego comes one day after he used an appearance at a Salt Lake City school to deliver the speech he would have given at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington had his schedule permitted.
The 74-year-old Sanders would be the nation's first Jewish president. He pledged to restart peace talks in the Middle East, a process he said would require "hard but just decisions'' to put Israel and the Palestinians on a "path toward peace.''
"I am here to tell you that, if elected president, I will work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace as a partner and as a friend to Israel,'' Sanders said.
"But to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza, unemployment today is 44 percent and the poverty rate is almost as high. That cannot be ignored.''
Sanders also called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War.
"Those who advocate for stronger military involvement by the U.S. to oust Assad from power have not paid close enough attention to history,'' Sanders said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad. "That would simply prolong the war, and increase the chaos in Syria, not end it.''
Boydston said supporters are "thrilled that he is coming to town and we are thrilled at his success so far and the prospect that it's just going to get better. I would like to exhort people to look at all the facts. Talk is cheap.''