Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallies for Rep. Jamaal Bowman at St. Mary's Park in Mott Haven on June 22. By Leandra Manon.

Just three days before Democratic primary elections, a crowd of about 300 withstood sweltering heat and humidity at St. Mary’s Park to rally for Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Bowman, a progressive who has supported the Palestinian cause in Israel’s incursions into Gaza, is being challenged for his northern Bronx and Westchester congressional seat  by Westchester Executive George Latimer.

Latimer, who is widely considered a moderate, has taken a lead in the polls leading up to Tuesday’s primary, thanks to nearly $15 million in campaign contributions from pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Although Bowman’s district lies well north of Mott Haven and Hunts Point, his fellow progressive in Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used her bully pulpit to stump for her colleague in the South Bronx’s biggest park. The Bronx section of Ocasio-Cortez’s own district extends from Parkchester down through Hunts Point, just a mile east of the park.

“Our brother Jamaal Bowman is under attack,” said Ocasio-Cortez, to loud applause. “He’s being primaried by racism. He is being primaried by greed. He is being primaried by corruption of our politics and we cannot let them win.”

Another national star from the progressive camp, Vermont Senator and native Brooklynite Bernie Sanders, also came out to stump for Bowman.

It was Sanders’ second visit to the South Bronx’s biggest park. In 2016, he held a rally at St. Mary’s during his unsuccessful run for president, counting on the area’s record as one of the country’s deepest blue districts to stoke momentum.

“This election is not about Jamaal versus Mr. Latimer,” said Sanders. “This election is about whether or not the billionaire class and the oligarchs will control the United States government, and our view is, no, they won’t.”

Sanders highlighted Bowman’s record on health care and the environment, and added that “Jamaal also understands that what’s going on in the world in Gaza today is totally unacceptable.”

Shortly after Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza in October, Bowman co-sponsored a bill in congress calling for a ceasefire, which has contributed to erosion of support in his district. Even on the left, some say his, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders’s continued support for the president is unacceptable, given President Biden’s unwillingness to refer to Israel’s military operation in Gaza as genocide.

A few groups and individuals came to protest the high-profile presenters, and although they said security staff guarding park entrances attempted to keep them out, some managed to get in. A member of the Bronx Anti War Coalition said she was disappointed in Bowman and his two progressive colleagues for not speaking out against Biden and Israel.

“In all three cases, these are people who have endorsed Joe Biden, who is 100 percent complicit with what’s going on,” said Norwood resident Janet Clarke. “They do very good lip service. They’re like, ‘yes, we want a ceasefire,’ which is great. But if they’re not willing to say that this is their red line, then all it is is performative.”

Clarke said she was skeptical any of the speakers had anything but their own political fortunes at heart. She added Rep. Ritchie Torres to the list of elected officials she suspects are unconcerned about the common folk, saying “This is a guy who tweets about 230 percent more about Israel than poverty in the Bronx.”

Many at the rally said they supported Bowman for his views on healthcare, climate change and economic inequality, which they said were in line with the policies championed by the progressive left.

Bernette Urquhart, a registered nurse at Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital for 34 years, said showing up for Bowman was a no-brainer, pointing out that he supported nurses amid an understaffing crisis during the pandemic, which left an impact on nurses like her.

“Jaamal supported us when they moved in to close our underserved community hospital during the middle of a pandemic, and they closed our ICU. Jaamal Bowman was there to fight with us and supported us all the way until now.” said Urquhart.

A member of a group called Jews for Jamaal pointed out, “It’s super hot out here, which makes it all the more impressive that there are still tons of people ready to rally for Jamaal.”

Eva Borgwardt said the group’s goal is to unite Jewish voters for the incumbent.

“We’re here for the kids in the district, we’re here for kids across the U.S., and we’re here for both Israeli and Palestinian children and children around the world,” said Borgwadt. “And we want to be consistent in those values, and the Democratic Party should be consistent in those values, and Jamaal represents that.”

Seventh grader Stella Harvey said she dragged her dad to the rally. By Judith Marks.

Despite the difference in opinion among Democrats, young people tapped into the optimistic tone of the rally. Eighteen-year-old Bronxite Q Daily said he was excited to have reached voting age, and looked forward to casting his ballot for the first time.

“I have been attending rallies since before I was able to walk,” he said, adding that, as a Colombian immigrant, his mother attended rallies to get out the vote even before she had the right to vote. “They are always fun and feel empowering and cool – even in this heat.”

A fifth grader at Neighborhood Charter School a few blocks from the park attended the rally with her father. Because the music was too loud for her to be heard, she wrote on a pad to explain her motivation for attending the rally.

”I am here because I want to represent the Bronx and America,” wrote Aurora.

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