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'We can do it in North Dakota': Bernie Sanders thrills big crowd in Fargo

FARGO -- Almost 2,000 people cheered Bernie Sanders here on Friday, May 13, as he assailed corporate greed and rattled off a list of his progressive proposals.

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Bernie Sanders, candidate for U.S. president, speaks at a rally Friday, May 13, 2016, at Ramada Plaza & Suites, Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor)

FARGO -- Almost 2,000 people cheered Bernie Sanders here on Friday, May 13, as he assailed corporate greed and rattled off a list of his progressive proposals.

The senator from Vermont, in a speech at the Ramada Inn & Suites in south Fargo, acknowledged the commanding lead Hillary Clinton has in the number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. The crowd shouted, "You can do it!"

"You guys are going to have to come out in large numbers and give us a great victory," he said. Sanders said he would need to win in North Dakota's June 7 caucuses and the other remaining contests by large margins in order to win the nomination.

Sanders was introduced by former Fargo talk radio show host Ed Schultz at the rally. "He'll stand up to Wall Street," Schultz said.

Taking the podium, Sanders noted Schulz's Fargo roots. "You raise tough and good people here in Fargo," Sanders said.

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Over the next hour, Sanders appeared to delight the crowd of mostly young people. They booed Wall Street and applauded lines about campaign finance reform and "political revolution."

The Sanders campaign said 1,828 people made it inside for the speech, while 200 were outside.

"When we began this campaign a little over a year ago, we were considered to be a fringe campaign," Sanders said. "Well, a lot has changed in the last year."

"Wall Street is not too happy about it. The world of corporate America is not so happy about it," he said. "I think millions of Americans are happy about it."

He pointed to his victories in 19 states, then said, "With your help, we're going to win the caucus here in North Dakota."

Sanders described the enthusiasm generated by his campaign and the fact that he is polling better against Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, than Clinton is. He said that if he is the Democratic nominee, he will drive the kind of voter turnout that will get him elected and help his party capture other high-profile races.

Sanders said he can not accomplish progressive goals alone. "The only way that real change ever takes place is when millions of people stand up and fight back," he said.

Sanders discussed some of his trademark issues: campaign finance reform, climate change and income inequality, to name a few.

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"For a start, we make sure that everybody in America that works 40 hours a week does not live in poverty and that means we raise the minimum wage to a living wage: $15 an hour," he said. He also proposed investing $1 trillion in rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

"It is a rigged economy," Sanders said. "The reality is that the top one-tenth of one percent ... now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of our people."

He also talked about his plan to make public college education tuition-free, paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation, "which will bring in more than enough money."

Another of his priorities is tackling climate change. "I am more than aware that North Dakota is a fossil fuel state and that there are a whole lot of workers that are supporting their families" through that industry. He said he supports $41 billion to help workers during the energy shift.

"Our goal is not to punish the workers. It is to save this planet."

Sanders made specific appeals to black, Latino and Native American voters, saying he takes seriously their concerns about the lack of resources invested in inner cities, the exploitation of undocumented immigrants and the various challenges facing Native American communities. "We owe the Native American people a debt that we can never fully repay," he said.

He ended the rally to the song "Starman," by David Bowie.

Some people waited for more than an hour in the cold to hear Sanders speak. One of them wasn't old enough to vote, but she was supporting Sanders anyway.

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"He's for the people," said Lauren Rehbein, 9, of Moorhead, who was wearing a Sanders-themed T-shirt.

Sanders supporters came from across the region. Michelle Sarono, a 25-year-old Canadian from Winnipeg, came along with her classmate from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"We're just kind of curious," Sarono said. "A lot of our friends are Bernie supporters."

"He's so consistent," she said of Sanders. "You can't really find any dirt against him."

A Donald Trump supporter stood out in the middle of all the Sanders fans. Deven Styczynski, 29, said at this point, he prefers Trump. But he wanted to hear Sanders speak because he's open minded.

"You can't make an informed decision without hearing all sides," he said.

Clinton leads Sanders with 1,716 pledged delegates to his 1,433. Counting superdelegates, her lead is much wider.

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