Forget the modest muppet at the Bernie-themed art show coming to the Bowery this weekend, this muppet really took Manhattan. It remains to be seen whether Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic nomination, but this guy was definitely a winner at the underdog candidate’s Washington Square Park rally. As Muppet Bernie walked down Broadway after the event let out, he was stopped for selfies by dozens and dozens of the estimated 27,000-plus people who flooded the Village to hear from Vampire Weekend, Rosario Dawson, Tim Robbins, Spike Lee, and bird-whisperin’ Bern himself.
When we asked Muppet Bernie for his name, he said he didn’t want to give it because he could lose his job at Bank of America, and offered the “nickname” Jack Shultz. I wasn’t sure whether to believe that he worked at one of the big banks (Shultz’s Facebook page says he was previously employed at a web designer), so I asked him why he’d support a candidate who’s seeking to break them up. “Could you imagine?” Jack replied. “That creates opportunity for people like me. The little guy gets to move up.”
Okay, but Jack wasn’t such a little guy. His rather yuge head was attracting a lot of attention. At one point, a cop even shouted out “Bernie!” and took a photo.
“Woo hoo! Let’s follow Muppet Bernie!” squealed a young woman to her friend.
And yes, there’s a hashtag, #muppetbernie. The head was created by Kimberly McCloskey, a Philadelphia paralegal and fervid Bernie booster who contacted Team Bernie New York to offer its services. Jack drove to Philly and back just to pick it up, and it seems to have been worth it. He estimated 250 to 300 people had stopped him for selfies, even though he hadn’t managed to get into Washington Square Park proper.
Then again, a lot of people weren’t let into the park. That’s because hardcore Sandernistas (or maybe Vampire Weekend fans?) had started lining up at 1:30 a.m. that morning. This video shows what the line to get in was like when we asked Bernie supporters to tell us what they’d ask Hillary at the debate. This was a couple of hours before doors opened at 5 p.m.
East Village artist Nicolina was one of those who had the good sense to show up early. She sent us this photo of some Bernie art she created with friends.
Also there early was the same Bernie puppet we spotted at a pro-Bernie march down Broadway in January. That’s right, muppets and puppets!
When I got there around 8 p.m. after attending a taping of Bernie’s appearance of The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, it was only because I had an NYU ID that I was able to get past a barricade at Broadway and get within sight of Washington Square Park. There was no chance of getting into the park proper.
I joined a crowd that had filled up half a block in the middle of Thompson Street and listened to Rosario Dawson as she took the podium and immediately harkened back to her history with the park. “I did a movie here with an awesome man named Harold Hunter, whose birthday just passed,” she said of her Kids co-star. “And one of the things we say about him is, ‘Legends never die.’ And that is very true. We have an opportunity with our vote this coming Tuesday to make sure that we recognize the invisible.”
Dawson was considerably less combative with Hillary than she was during her South Bronx speech, though she did criticize the frontrunner’s Iraq War vote.
Tim Robbins also recalled his history in the Village: “I grew up about five blocks from here,” he said. “I used to come play in this park– I protested against the Vietnam War in the park when I was a young’un and I’m so inspired to see all of you here.”
Bernie pretty much hued to his standard stump speech, mixing it up very little for the downtown audience. That said, he might as well have been pandering to the Washington Square Park crowd when he said, “Today [if] some kid in New York City gets arrested for possession of marijuana…” — the crowd cut him off to boo what has happened to so, so many people in that very park– “…that kid will carry a police record with him for the rest of his life, which is serious stuff. But if you are an executive on Wall Street and your illegal behavior destroys the lives of millions of Americans, you don’t get a police record, you get an increase in your compensation package. And together, we’re going to bring justice back to the criminal justice system.”
Everyone cheered wildly when Bernie said he hoped to lift the federal ban on marijuana– though, from the smell in the air at times, it seemed like that ban wasn’t making much of a difference.
Bern one and watch the whole rally here.