Oakland, CA — An estimated 20,000 people lined up around several city blocks in downtown Oakland, California, on Sunday morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Harris officially launched her 2020 presidential bid from the steps of City Hall on Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Before the public was allowed on the plaza, a long line snaked around several Oakland city blocks. Some Harris supporters weren’t let into the plaza, and went into neighboring bars to watch the senator’s speech on the television or on their smartphones.
Harris is among several Democrats who have announced that they’re running for president, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Much of the cheerful crowd were excited to see Harris — the former California Attorney General-turned-national politician — kick off her campaign in her hometown. But a few people came out to protest, saying her policies will “suppress the middle class” and criticizing the former prosecutor for not sufficiently addressing mass incarceration and systemic racism.
YR Media talked to people in the crowd. Some said they’re all in for Kamala, while others are still shopping. The first Democratic primaries for the 2020 presidential race won’t take place until next year.
“I’m really excited that a woman of color is running. She’s awesome,” said Selina Xie. “I think it’s going to be a close race and I hope it won’t be like in 2016. I hope the Democrats won’t be at each other’s throat, but are able to unite. They need to unite.”
“This is the beginning of my self-education process when it comes to the candidates for the 2020 elections,” Eva Johnson said. “I need to stay more in tune with what’s happening in the political landscape. So the coming two to three months, I’m going to see what the others have to offer. I’m not a die-hard Kamala Harris supporter, but I love the energy here and the ‘pro rights’ undertone.”
“I worked with congressional campaigns before, and I think Kamala Harris is the right candidate for positive legislation,” said Isaiah Cane. “You can see that from her history as a prosecutor.”
“I’m with the Democratic Socialists of America and I’m here to speak the truth about Harris’ policy. She hijacks leftist words and phrases and makes it seem that she’s with the people, while she’s against them,” said Dina Asfaha. “Kamala Harris, like the other candidates, are just corporate clowns.”
“I want to see a woman as president. That’s why I’m here. I want to learn more about Kamala Harris and at the same time want to be part of something bigger,” said Jenny Weik.
“This announcement really excites me. There are a lot of people around the country who are hurting and I think Kamala Harris is the right person who can stand up for those people through her policy. It’s going to be a very crowded primary election and I hope this won’t divide the Democrats, the way the diverse set of candidates did back in the 2016 primaries,” said Noam Haykeen.
Yesterday’s crowd was reportedly bigger than when President Barack Obama announced his candidacy in 2007. At the time, 15,000 people braved the winter Illinois cold to see the then-junior senator lay out his vision for winning the White House.
During a speech at Sunday's rally, Harris promised that she would fight for Medicare for all and would deliver the “largest tax cuts for the working and middle class in a generation.” But before she can do that, there’s still a long way to the official nomination.