Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Bay Area: ‘This is about a movement’

Screaming. Stomping. Adulation.

Hell, there was even a three-story tall projection celebrating her arrival across the street.

From the long lines spiraling out of Gray Area Art and Technology and around the corner of Mission and 23rd streets, to the thunderous applause when she took the stage, the breakout New York congressional candidate might as well have been a rock star to the San Francisco progressives gathered Tuesday night.

Of course, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not just any congressional candidate.

The great Bronx hope’s June primary win signaled the rise of a progressive movement nationally, as well as newfound prominence for the Democratic Socialists of America.

“This is about a movement,” Ocasio-Cortez said, on the stage of Gray Area in the Mission District, the progressive heart of San Francisco.

Her appearance was organized by the San Francisco Progressive Alliance, allied groups comprised of the S.F. Berniecrats, the Latino Democratic Club, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and the local chapter of the DSA.

Ocasio-Cortez was introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim, who is no stranger to national progressive love — lest we forget her “Bernie-bump” in the polls during her State Senate primary.

“A couple months ago I was bartending and struggling in the Bronx,” Ocasio-Cortez said to the crowd, who chuckled in recognition. No doubt many of those gathered saw themselves in that story, as San Francisco’s rent is in a constant rivalry with New York City’s for most expensive.

Ocasio-Cortez touched on many issues near and dear to the heart of the Bay Area progressives, from the need for free community college that Kim secured two years ago, to bringing marginalized communities into politics — from people of color, to the LGBTQ community and all those who have been disenfranchised.

Criminal justice reform, health care for all, education for all and “getting money out of politics” should all be priorities for those gathered, she said.

Part of her talk was interrupted by sudden shouts from the crowd, who from the back of the room chanted in support of Palestinian statehood in its long-standing conflict with Israel.

“From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” the back of the room chanted.

Ocasio-Cortez took the interruption in stride, smiled and said “thanks.”

All times are ripe for dialogue, she added. Addressing the calls in support of Palestine, she said that as a Puerto Rican woman “I come from a community that has no representation,” she explained, which has led to second-class citizenship and “resulted in a humanitarian crisis.”

Representation was the thrust of her message Tuesday night.

When she first ran, she said, some told her to ignore those who hadn’t previously voted.

She was told “it was a waste of time.”

But Ocasio-Cortez said that smacked of racism to her, and is an attitude that locked out communities of color and other marginalized peoples.

“The answer to get those people to vote is to fight harder,” she said.

“We need to knock every door, call every phone,” she said. The left’s mission, she said, should be to restore true representation to the Democratic Party and national politics.

To some degree, the local DSA chapter and other progressives have already adopted this ethos, as newly energized activists took to the streets this last election to beat back a taser measure, and busted their butts last month to gather signatures for the Our City, Our Home initiative, which would tax the wealthiest companies in San Francisco to fund housing and services for the homeless.

Many in the crowd the night told me they found renewed energy from Ocasio-Cortez’s visit.

Blaine Dzwonczyk, 23, a native of Mountain View, said she’s seen many in her community priced out by the tech boom. And recently, real estate interests tried to peel back her city’s rent control protections by ballot.

“Mountain View is the community I grew up in. It’s horrifying to see [people] pushed out due to skyrocketing rents,” she said.

But seeing Ocasio-Cortez tonight, she said “I think is part of continuing to be active in Mountain View … it’s really exciting.”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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