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Large crowd greets Bernie Sanders at St. Louis area school

The line stretched nearly all the way around Affton High School Sunday morning to get into the gym to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak.

Sanders appeared at 12:30 p.m. Waiting in the drizzle beforehand were people from the metro-east, some curious, some already Sanders supporters.

“I want to see him in person,” said John Hilgeman, of Belleville. “There’s a certain energy you see when you see someone in person.”

Hilgeman saw Sanders’ Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Saturday and described her as “very vibrant.” Hilgeman declined to say who he would support in Illinois’ primary on Tuesday.

Shirley Allen, of O’Fallon, said she became a Sanders supporter after reading his books. “All of which are readily available at the public library,” she noted.

Allen said she hopes Sanders will discuss campaign finance reform and foreign trade policies during his appearance on Sunday.

Teris and Briana Gosier, of Fairview Heights, already have thrown their support behind Sanders because of his universal healthcare policy.

“Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) didn’t go far enough,” Teris Gosier said. “We live in one of the most privileged countries in the world. Healthcare should be a right.”

Teris Gosier served with the U .S. Army in Iraq in 2009 to 2010 and said he also appreciates Sanders stance on medical marijuana for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

An hour and a half before Sanders was set to take the stage, the gym was full. Spontaneously, chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” went up from the crowd. Before Sanders spoke, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) warmed up the crowd.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

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