Jamaal Bowman holds Bronx rally for NY seat

Top progressives rally with Jamaal Bowman ahead of Tuesday’s New York congressional race. [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

US Representative Jamaal Bowman is in the fight for his political career as he defiantly called out his opponent’s donations from AIPAC and Republicans in his last major rally before New York’s congressional primary election on Tuesday.

“AIPAC is scared to death. That is why they’re spending record amounts of money in this race,” said Bowman, yelling to a cheering Bronx crowd on Saturday, with some holding Palestinian flags.

“They have already lost, because the district, the American people and the world are with us,” he added, leading a chant of “Ceasefire now!” 

Amid the summer heat, more than a thousand people came out to support Bowman, who is campaigning for every last vote in the most expensive congressional primary race in US history.

Many gathered for shade under trees, leaving empty some of the closest spots to the stage that were under direct sunlight.

Through its super PAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has spent more than $20 million on Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who currently has a 17-poiint lead over Bowman, according to the latest polls.

“I’m here today because this election is one of the most important in the modern history of America,” said Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, immediately after taking the stage. “This election is about whether or not the billionaire class and the oligarchs will control the United States government.”

The rally, organised by the campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, took place in St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx, near where the congresswoman had grown up. Known for its large Black and Hispanic communities, the borough has seen decades of neglect from politicians.

Bowman, said Ocasio-Cortez, “is being primaried by racism. He is being primaried by greed. He is being primaried by corruption of our politics”.

She went on to describe how when her parents were growing up in the borough, landlords set fire to buildings to make way for development and disenfranchised local residents. 

“We see the greed, and it is also not lost on us that the historic amounts of money being spent to defeat him are linked back to billionaires and Republicans who prop up Donald Trump and all of his thugs,” she said.

Indeed, for many in the Bronx, Latimer’s style harkens back to the days of old white men making decisions for the borough’s non-white constituents.

Since the beginning of his campaign against Bowman, Latimer has made a series of racial gaffes. He has suggested Bowman, who is Black, has an advantage with people of his own background, but otherwise doesn’t connect with the rest of the district. 

In an interview with Punchbowl News, Latimer said: “Is [Bowman] going to get at least 40 percent of the vote? Yes. Does he have an obvious ethnic benefit? Yes. Will he get the people who are furthest to the left? Yes. But once you get beyond a couple of constituencies that he has strength in, he’s weak everywhere else.”

During a debate between the two candidates, Latimer said Bowman’s “constituents are from Dearborn”, referring to the Arab-majority city, likely pointing to Bowman’s support for Palestinians in Gaza.

One of the main messages Bowman’s supporters have been trying to get across to New Yorkers is that some of Latimer’s top donors are Republicans, something that has largely been absent from campaign advertising. TV ads on both sides claim that their candidate is more aligned with Biden, with no mention of the party affiliation of the ad’s sponsor.

“When I make phone calls and let people know that George Latimer campaign is being funded by Republican money, the response is generally, whoa stop hold the phone. I’m going to vote right now,” Nicole Murray, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, told The New Arab.

For those with a similar background as Bowman, his leadership has been crucial for their community that has long been neglected by politicians. Bernetta Urquhart, a registered nurse, told TNA that she knows Bowman from his work to keep a local hospital running during the pandemic.

Though the turnout for the rally mainly consisted of the left wing of the Democratic Party, an Australian attendee pointed out that some of ‘The Squad’s’ key policies — such as universal healthcare and affordable education — are mainstream in much of the rest of the world.

As the speeches wrapped up, the Beatles’ song Power to the People played. Hundreds of attendees then headed to buses to door knock for Bowman in nearby towns in District 16. 

“It’s a fight to the finish with this amount of money,” Connor Farrell, CEO of Left Rising, told TNA. “We’re fighting for every last vote.”

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