MIAMI, Fla -- At a "Come Together and Fight Back" unity rally in South Florida, it was clear among Latino attendees there is still much work to be done in order to bring the Democratic party together before the next elections.
The differences that were there in 2016 between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are still a reality as Democrats work to reinvigorate and build up their ranks.
Miami Dade college student Maya Amezquieta, 21, came to the rally to see former presidential hopeful and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who joined the newly elected chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Tom Perez, in rallies across several cities this week.
Amezquieta had supported Sanders in the primaries and then turned to the Green Party when he didn’t win.
“I feel like the Democratic Party is not left enough. They are more in the center. They lean too much towards the Republicans.” she said.
The young Latina feels that in order for the party to unify, it needs to take more interest in the people and take money out of politics. Right now, “they are not appealing to the younger voters or progressives.”
Speaking at the rally on Wednesday night, Sanders called for rebuilding the party and turning it into a “grassroots" party. “It looks to me like you guys are ready to make a political revolution,” Sanders said to the crowd that greeted him with a roaring cheer.
Over 2,000 people attended the event, according to the general manager of the James L. Knight Center where the rally was held. The tour, which kicked off on Monday in Portland, Maine and includes 8 stops, hopes to help unify the divided Clinton–Sanders supporters.
Like his campaign rallies, Sanders talked about income inequality, affordable education, criminal justice reform and health care. The crowd cheered when he said, “we need to guarantee healthcare for all people as a right.”
Sanders also called for comprehensive immigration reform. “There is a lot of fear in communities all over this country. People have been in this country 10, 15, 20 years, raising their kids here. They are scared to death. And our job is together as a nation to say that we respect those people, we’re going to work with those people, and we are finally going to pass immigration reform.”
Some attendees are holding out hope for another Sanders presidential run. Many were holding signs and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “Bernie Sanders 2020.”
Shadi Toro, 26, works in sales and still feels it was a mistake to elect Clinton for the Democratic ticket. “I think Bernie would have been a bigger blow to Donald Trump. He has real fans.”
Toro said he abstained during the November elections because he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Clinton who he felt was “too controlled” by special interest groups.
He said he came to the event because he just wants “to hear an action plan. I want to hear what he [Sanders] wants to do and how he’s going to do it.”
The divisions among the party were obvious; there were even some boos heard in the crowd when Sanders thanked the DNC Chair.
Perez, a son of Dominican immigrants, delved right into the topic of immigration during his speech and said “it breaks my heart to read what I have read over the past couple of days,” referring to the deportation of ‘Dreamer’ Juan Manuel Montes and Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick, who faces deportation for having voted illegally.
Perez, who also drew cheers during his impassioned remarks, sprinkled his speech with Spanish. He told the crowds ““Vamos a luchar juntos” or “let’s fight together.”
Kevin Zamora and Jennifer Russell, two South Florida residents, drove about an hour to attend the event. They were both Sanders supporters who turned to Clinton when he lost the primary and never understood the split within the party.
“I don’t understand the disconnect because how do you go from Bernie Sanders to a candidate like Trump,” Zamora said.
Russell called it “egotistical” that Sanders supporters turned against Clinton after the primary.
They both said they came to the rally to hear “what is the plan.” They want to know more about how the party is going to close the gap with income inequality, make education better and more affordable and what is going to be done about health care.
Florida International University professor Eduardo Gamarra said the Democratic party is going through a difficult moment.
"I don't think we really know what the party is - whether it's on the left or on the right or in the middle," he said. "Most of what I know when looking at the figures is that the party needs to move left - towards that populist left that Bernie advocated, which in many ways coincided with Trump's agenda" said Gamarra.
For some Latinos at the rally, it's about having more than two political parties to choose from.
Santiago Cely, said Sanders’ “platform is perfect.” But he says he is all for “political diversity and political alternatives. The two party political establishment needs to be broken,” he said.