SALT LAKE CITY — A group of self-described socialists in Utah's capital city are trying to ignite a fire of local support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Hundreds of locals gathered Saturday to "feel the Bern," as the unofficial slogan goes, at a march and rally designed as part of a nationwide #movement4Bernie campaign and put on by the political activist organization Socialist Alternative Utah.
"I think Bernie will win Utah," said Dennis Potter, philosophy professor at Utah Valley University and chief organizer of Saturday's event. He said he knows that regardless of the effort, a Republican candidate will ultimately take Utah's votes, but the push for Sanders is "part of a long-term, national perspective."
"We are building a substantial Democratic socialist movement that hasn't been this big since the '60s," Potter said.
"He's the only candidate running that represents the people," said Julianne Waters, of Moab. She said Sanders shares her views on health care, education, prisons and climate change, among others. The Vermont senator's ideals, she said, are rooted in good family values.
But Waters said Sanders resonated with her most when he said Americans should fight for each other, that he feels for people hurting.
"That's the spirit we want to bring back to America," she said. "We're all in this together. Our ideals are so important to us."
The group marched from City Creek Park to Washington Square, shouting various chants and rousing attention for themselves as they made their way down the busy streets. An aroma of patchouli danced in the air as they walked. And they carried American flags, bells and other noisemakers, as well as a number of signs touting their belief in Sanders.
"He's a symbol for this movement," Potter said. "We can't keep going in the direction we are going. We need change."
Sanders, 75, was campaigning in Texas on Saturday, where a political rally in Austin was delayed because of a larger-than-expected turnout.
"We, the little people, finally have a man in our corner," said Darin Mann, who spoke to the crowds in Salt Lake City. Mann and others knocked on doors after the rally to inform "as many Utahns as we can," he said.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was scheduled to speak at the local rally, but his appearance was canceled at the last minute.
In addition to Salt Lake City, Sanders' supporters assembled in at least 35 states this weekend, days before Super Tuesday when Democratic caucuses and primary elections will be held in 11 states and one United States territory. Utah will hold its Democratic caucus on March 22.