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Sanders in Ann Arbor: Biden will protect people from COVID-19

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor  — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stumped twice in Michigan for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket on Monday and extolled the former vice president as the leader the country needs to get through the coronavirus pandemic and fight to improve the lives of average Americans.

The one-time rival to Biden for the Democratic nomination spoke at event intended to encourage people to vote. Hours later, he was at Macomb Community College at a large parking lot full of Biden supporters honking their horns to punctuate Sanders' speech.

He even endured one flag-waving Donald Trump supporter who interrupted his parking lot speech in Macomb County.

At both stops, Sanders also implored young people to get to the polls to support Biden.

"Which candidate for president has shown that he will be disciplined, that he will be responsible, that he will do his best to protect the people around him as we deal with this pandemic?  And the answer is Joe Biden," Sanders said to applause outside the Kerrytown Market and Shops in Ann Arbor.

"Which candidate for president has made it clear that he will develop policies which are based on science, not politics, and that he will seek the advice of the best scientists and doctors in our country and around the world in order to combat and defeat this pandemic? And the answer is Joe Biden."

Sanders, who made numerous trips to Michigan during his quest for the nomination, pressed issues the vowed socialist candidate said were important to Biden, such as climate change, raising the minimum wage and helping students with college tuition.

While Biden and Sanders disagree on issues like Medicare for all, he is confident that the former vice president will expand needed health care coverage, including for mental health.

"And when we talk about the need to raise wages in America, let’s be clear. When Joe Biden is president, he will increase the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to a living wage of $15 an hour," Sanders said. "Joe also knows that if we are going to expand the middle class in this country, we must make it easier for workers to join unions, engage in collective bargaining and end the heavy-handed corporate tactics that make it hard for workers to unionize in America."

Sanders was joined in Ann Arbor by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who said she encouraged Sanders to come to Ann Arbor to rally young people to vote, citing the importance of this year's election.

"This country's democracracy is at stake," Dingell said. "Your vote matters. It does."

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin attended the event in Macomb County.

At the Warren car rally, the Vermont senator's speech was disrupted by a supporter of President Trump and walked in front of the stage to wave a Trump 2020 flag. When college police confronted the woman, who identified herself as Genevieve Peters, she told the officer: "Don't touch me" and accused Sanders of "lying about our president."

Sanders' mic was cut for a few moments and then restored. Peters' flag was taken and she was removed from the parking lot but not before sitting on the ground and attempting to Facebook Live her encounter.

Patricia Scarpaci, 56, of Bloomfield Hills attended Sanders speech and held up a large Biden flag. She said the Democratic Party "is going down the right path and they are fighting for the average American, not fighting for the wealthy."

"People need to open their eyes," she said. "We really need to make a change in this country. And we can't keep working for the wealthy. We need to work for the average citizen."

Meanwhile, Sanders acknowledged in both speeches that the younger generation doesn't vote as much and called for that to change.

"So today I say to young people, if you are worried about the outrageous level of student debt that many of you have incurred or are incurring, if you are upset about the high cost of college, if you are concerned about low-paying jobs, climate change, sexism, racism, homophobia and religious bigotry, it is not good enough to complain and moan and groan.

"That doesn't change anything," he said. "You have to do something about it, you have to fight back and the first step forward is to vote."

Trump's team shot back Monday at Sanders' Michigan appearances.

“Joe Biden supports Bernie Sanders and the radical left’s Green New Deal that will ban fossil fuels and decimate Michigan’s auto industry," said Trump Victory representative Chris Gustafson. "Meanwhile, President Trump is committed to preserving America’s energy independence while creating an economy that ensures a brighter future for the Great Lakes State.” 

Marilyn Warner, 54, of Ann Arbor, said she liked Sanders' speech and saw it as important that he and other rivals support the Biden ticket "because I think it will be the best for our country."

"I think  to the degree that they can agree and work together, I'm sure that there are compromises that would be best for the country," said Warner on issues such as health insurance and lowering tuition costs. She had initially backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren but shifted to Biden. "Working together is the way to get it done."

Sanders began his remarks by sending well wishes to President Donald Trump and the first lady who were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. The president had been hospitalized but was discharged Monday evening.

"What the last few days have told us is that, if there was ever any doubt, it should now be clear that no one, no one, is safe from this pandemic.  It doesn't matter if you are a front line worker in a hospital — and we thank our medical personnel for the extraordinary sacrifices they have made for us during this pandemic," Sanders said.

"It doesn't matter if you are an essential worker at a super market, a packing house worker or a bus driver. And it doesn't matter if you are president of the United States. Each and every one of us is vulnerable. And we will remain vulnerable until there is a vaccine or a perfected cure."

Sanders said he isn't going away and will continue to fight for the less fortunate.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming