Bernie Sanders draws biggest crowd at Portland rally

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders held a rally in Portland, Oregon, which featured the largest crowd so far of any single 2016 candidate
  • The event came just a day after protestors interrupted a rally he had in Seattle
  • Sanders is now featuring security at his rallies, and protestors were unable to interrupt his Sunday event

Portland (CNN)Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drew more than 19,000 people to an NBA arena on Sunday night in Portland, Oregon, setting the record for the largest political event of the 2016 presidential contest.

The Democratic candidate has drawn large crowds nearly everywhere he has gone, so much so that Sanders' campaign has started to be defined by their turnout figures. Sanders' staff has also proudly touted the numbers as proof that their campaign is catching fire nationally, though Sanders' largest rallies have typically been in liberal enclaves such as Madison, Wisconsin, and Sunday's Pacific Northwest events fit that description.
"Whoa," Sanders said as he walked on stage in Portland. "This is an unbelievable turnout."
    According to Michael Lewellen, vice president of corporate communications for the arena, there were over 19,000 people in the arena and an estimated 9,000 people who lined up outside but were unable to get in. Lewellen said a total of 28,000 people tried to attend the event.
    Of late, the Sanders campaign has been dogged by Black Lives Matter protestors. The senator's first event Saturday in Seattle was ended after two protestors stormed the stage and refused to leave.
    And on Sunday night it was clear that the campaign remains worried about protests, despite trying to address what has been a nagging blind spot for the senator.
    Sanders' aides said before the event that they were planning for a "disturbance" from Black Lives Matters protestors. The senator's new press secretary, Symone Sanders, told the audience that if a protest were to break out, the audience should chant "We Stand Together."
    The arena broke out into the chant after Sanders said it.
    This is the first time Sanders' campaign has rolled out a shout down chant for dealing with protests and was a clear attempt to avoid what happened Saturday, when Sanders supporters booed the Black Lives Matters protestors.
    Sanders told the audience that his campaign was about "bringing people together," not dividing voters. And as he did on Saturday night in Seattle, he spoke about issues that Black Lives Matter wants to hear more about: criminal justice, education and prison reform.
    Three women gained access to the press area on Sunday night and held a banner that read "Don't Shoot PDX," an abbreviation for Portland. When Sanders wasn't speaking, attendees could hear the women chanting faintly, but the protest did not serve as much of a disruption and the arena did not break out into chants.
    After the event, Sanders told CNN that he wasn't worry about protests. "Great night. Huge turnout. Very good," he said as he worked the ropeline.
    One new addition to Sunday's event: Security.
    Six guards stood around the stage on the floor of the Moda Arena, ensuring that if a protest were to break out, it would be unlikely the stage would be seized. Sanders' campaign declined to talk about security after Saturday's protest, but the senator has yet to travel with a visible security detail.
    Since protestors first hit a Sanders event in July, the campaign has tried to address the candidate's issues with Black Lives Matters protestors.
    After Saturday's protests the campaign added a "Racial Justice" tab to their campaign issues page.
    "We must pursue policies that transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its people of color. That starts with addressing the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic," the website reads.
    The audience at Sunday's event was primarily white and expressed a lot of anti-Clinton sentiment.
    "He listens I think more than she does," said Claire Met, who came out with three friends to attend the event. "She seems more out of touch."
    Grace Rubenstein, a 19-year old from Oregon, said she respected Clinton but felt it was "time for new opinions to be brought into the race."
    And Brian Foren, who brought his son Liam to the event, said he was backing Sanders because he was concerned Clinton's "baggage" would hurt her in the general election.
    "I appreciate his honestness and his frankness," he said. "She has a lot of baggage and I worry that her baggage might cost us the election."
    As for Liam, he said he is supporting Sanders because "mommy and daddy told me."