Thousands of Democrats led by former President Barack Obama flooded Ice Palace Studios just north of downtown Miami Friday afternoon. They chanted “Bring it home,” decried the “world of hate” President Donald Trump has forged, and tried to whip up enthusiasm four days before the November 6 election.
“They said they were gonna clean up corruption, but there have been enough indictments to field a football team,” Obama, in a white shirt with sleeves rolled up, said of the Republicans. “Now they say the economy is good, but where do you think it started?”
Crowds stood outside for hours and then packed Ice Palace Studios to hear an all-star cast of Florida candidates — from Congressional hopeful Donna Shalala to national committee chairperson Tom Perez to gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Senate incumbent Bill Nelson — address the crowd.
Outside, campaign workers pushed support for Amendment 4, perhaps the most important thing on the ballot for Democrats in the long term. It would change the Florida Constitution to allow nonviolent felons an easier way to regain their voting rights, which are stripped after a conviction or a guilty plea.
Inside, candidates paraded across the stage, where they praised the former president, spewed bile on Republicans, and pushed issues that motivate the base, such as health care and immigration.
Shalala and Perez drew particular enthusiasm. Both took an ax to Trump’s “politics of division.”
“Is President Trump an American?” an unusually animated Shalala asked the crowd. “He sure doesn’t act like one. Let’s send him back to Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday.”
Perez, a Dominican-American who addressed the crowd in Spanish and English, said he missed Obama before laying into Trump. “Trump and Obama have nothing in common,” he said. “But in two years, they will. They will both be ex-presidents.”
Nelson, who also addressed the crowd in Spanish and English, criticized his opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, for ruining Florida’s waters and called him “#RedTideRick.”
Gillum pointed out he was born nearby at Jackson Memorial Hospital and that his mother had been a Dade County school bus driver.
The rally drew thousands of Miamians, as well as people from across the state and nation who wanted to get an eyeful of the former president. Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter in New York, said he was in town registering voters before heading to Atlanta to work for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams, whom he called “sister Abrams.” He has also been campaigning for Democrats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in recent weeks. He said of Gillum: “We need to get this man elected. He is someone we really believe in.”
Photo by Chuck Strouse
Chants punctuated the performance. In an odd moment, a man interrupted Obama’s speech by shouting “Antifa” over and over. It wasn’t clear what he meant, and the ex-president just stopped for a moment, looking back in confusion.
One particularly enthusiastic member of the audience was 45-year-old Ronny Carballo, who is a representative of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Though Carballo was born in Honduras, he has lived in the United States for 28 years. He arrived at first without papers and has applied for legalization — but still can’t vote this time around. He hopes to become a citizen in five years. “In the meantime, I get other people to vote — my brother and sister-in-law, my nieces, and members of my union,” he said, adding he is “100 percent frustrated” that he can’t vote. He strongly supports Gillum and added, “He’s black; we’re Latino. We’ve all suffered.”