Dubbed “Ferguson to Madison,” the rally drew striking social parallels between the two cities.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke out forcefully against a U.S. war on Syria over the weekend.
Speaking at a fundraiser in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday night, Sanders said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was "a butcher of the worst kind." But Sanders added: "To get involved in a bloody and complicated war in Syria makes no sense at all. We would reap consequences we can't imagine."
He also stressed that U.S. involvement in another war would be a huge distraction from the serious economic problems that plague most Americans.
"At a time when the middle class is literally disappearing," he said, "when 46 million people are living in poverty and real unemployment is close to 14 percent, and a generation of kids are graduating from high school and college and can't find any work, and when we have the most unequal distribution of income since the Great Depression, what do you think is going to happen if we go to war with Syria?"
His answer: These issues won't get addressed at all. They "keep getting pushed aside because of war and war and war and war," he said.
He added: "I don't want our country to become the Sparta of the twenty-first century."
He said the American people are opposed to this war. "95 percent of the calls and e-mails to my office are against us going to war in Syria," he said, and other elected officials are getting similar feedback from their constituents.
"Washington -- Congress and the President -- are way, way, way out of touch with the American people," he said.
Later Friday night, Sanders spoke at the Barrymore Theatre at the kick-off event of Fighting Bob Fest, one of the biggest annual gatherings of progressives in the country.
He envisioned not a war against Syria but a war to make America a more just society.
"How about going to war against unemployment?" he asked.
"How about going to war against our dysfunctional health care system?"
"How about a war against Wall Street?"
"How about a war against the high cost of higher education?"
"How about addressing the major planetary crisis, which is global warming?"
"How about a war against the attacks on our privacy rights?"
He also cautioned that "if we get into a war about regime change in Syria, who do you think is going to pay for it? The top 1 percent? No. Children in Head Start, families on food stamps, seniors on Medicare -- that's who will be paying for it."
In conclusion, he said, "Let's give peace a chance."
Sanders made similar remarks on Saturday from the podium of Fighting Bob Fest, where he warned about America becoming an oligarchy.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Obama Proceeds on Lawless Course to Syria.
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.