STORRS--Hundreds of UConn students rallied on the Student Union Mall in Storrs on Tuesday evening to show their support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The event was hosted by the group UConn Students for Bernie Sanders, founded by students Bennett Cognato and Daniel Byrd. The pair created a Facebook event over the summer called 'UConn Feels the Bern,' and said the post spread like wildfire, with hundreds of students responding that they would attend to Tuesday's event.
"We thought the best way to get students together in the spirit of Bernie Sanders' campaign was to grassroots organize and get students to come together to talk about their ideas, so we wanted to have a rally right away," said Cognato.
The group says it supports Sanders for several reasons, including his commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and offer free tuition for public colleges and universities.
"We know that we can trust him," said Byrd. "That when he is elected president, he's going to be working for us and not big money, not big corporations. So, I think that really appeals to students that we have a trustworthy candidate saying that he's going to speak up for us."
"We cannot have a president that does not support Planned Parenthood and women's rights, and I know that Bernie Sanders cares about it," said freshman Arianna Dines, who spoke at Tuesday's rally about why she supports Sanders for president.
The event also welcomed non-Sanders supporters or those who remain undecided so they could learn more about the candidate. In the most recent poll from CNN/ORC, 24 percent of Democratic primary voters support Sanders, compared to 42 percent for Hillary Clinton and 22 percent for Joe Biden.
Students were also able to register to vote or change their party affiliation.
"I want to learn more about the guy," said senior Alban Murtishi. "I know he's a real hit with the college students so I want to see if maybe whatever he wants to do aligns with what I want to do."
"I am waiting to say who I support definitively, but to see this kind of support for Bernie is interesting," said sophomore Stephanie Sponzo. "And I did change my party affiliation today to Democratic because I really want to vote in the primary."
UConn Students for Bernie Sanders says it plans to host several more events for Sanders during the election season.