MANHATTAN (CN) – Under the arch of Manhattan’s iconic Washington Square Park Monday, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren opened her speech with a graphic retelling of a tragedy that over a century ago unfolded just a block away at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.
“We’re not here because of famous arches or famous men,” she said, in a nod to George Washington. “In fact, we’re not here because of men at all. We’re here because of some hard-working women.”
In graphic detail, the Massachusetts senator told the estimated crowd of 20,000 what unfolded in 1911 that led to the deaths of 145 workers, over 120 of whom were women and girls. Warren explained that, while tragic, the incident should not have come as a surprise. The workers had been expressing their discontent with conditions and had even gone on strike, but the factory owners were getting rich and did not intend for that to change.
“Instead of changing conditions at the factories, the owners worked their political connections,” Warren said.
“Does any of this sound familiar?” she asked and posited that the same systems are at work today.
“Despite our being the strongest and wealthiest country in the history of the world, our democracy is paralyzed. And why? Because giant corporations have bought off our government, she said and called out the gun, fossil fuel, health insurance and drug industries as examples.
“Corruption is breaking our democracy. I know what’s broken, I’ve got a plan to fix it, and that’s why I’m running for president of the United States,” Warren said as the crowd roared.
Earlier Monday, Warren released a new plan for tackling political corruption, which she outlined in her evening speech. She has a lot of plans, she said, but they all come back to a simple idea – putting economic and political power in the hands of the people.
“Now, as bad as things are, we have to recognize our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump,” Warren said. “A country that elects Donald Trump is already in serious trouble.”
She called for meetings between politicians and lobbyists to be uniformly matters of public record and for the public release of tax returns by anyone who wants to run for federal office. High-level officials would be barred from owning businesses on the side and trading individual stocks, and elections should be publicly funded, she said.
“Enough is enough,” Warren said. “We’re going to take down the for-sale signs hanging outside of every federal building in Washington.”
Warren also evoked another woman in politics: Frances Perkins, who after watching the horrors of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire took action, organized a march and eventually became the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945 – the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.
“Frances had a plan,” said Warren, echoing her own slogan: “Warren has a plan for that.”
Warren was endorsed Monday morning by New York’s progressive Working Families Party, which went for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries.
“Two cents! Two cents!” Warren’s supporters chanted in support of her wealth tax, which she said would be used to fund universal childcare, pre-K, college and trade school tuition, and to pay off student loan debt.
The senator also called for the impeachment of President Trump, which she said is “our constitutional duty.” She was drowned out by cheers and chants of “Warren! Warren! Warren!”
Over a dozen progressive city and state politicians held a press conference ahead of Warren’s rally to announce their support for her, including New York City comptroller Scott Stringer and State Assemblywoman Alessandra Biaggi.
Warren is coming off a solid performance in last week’s debate among the top 10 Democratic candidates, and polls consistently in the top three, alongside former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Over the weekend, she made a stop in Massachusetts to speak at that state’s Democratic Party 2019 Action Agenda Convention. On Tuesday in Manhattan, she is scheduled to meet with the nonprofit group NARAL Pro-Choice America to discuss reproductive freedom.
After Warren’s approximately 45-minute speech, supporters lined up to take a selfie with her, as is her post-rally tradition.