Speaking to a crowd of more than 12,000 people at Navy Pier, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday described a pivotal moment in his political development that happened about 55 years ago when he was a student at the University of Chicago.

Sanders, who transferred to the elite school, was arrested in 1963 while protesting the squalid conditions of mobile trailers that the city provided to reduce overcrowding at South Side schools instead of integrating black students with their white peers.

"My activities here in Chicago taught me a very important lesson that I have never forgotten ... real change never takes place from the top on down,” he said to booming applause “It always takes place from the bottom on up."

Sanders’ message of social and economic justice underscored his hourlong address to a packed arena, marking one of the first events of his latest bid to reach the White House, as he promised to lead a political revolution leading up to the 2020 election.

"Three years ago, they thought we were kind of crazy and extreme, not the case anymore," he said. "We are not only going to defeat (President Donald) Trump, we are going to transform the United States of America." [The Chicago Tribune]

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders launched his 2020 presidential campaign at a pair of rallies over the weekend, speaking at NYC's Brooklyn College on Saturday (3/2) and Chicago's Navy Pier on Sunday (3/3). The events drew around 13,000 and 12,000 attendees, respectively, many of whom waited for in line for hours beforehand.

Along with a rousing speech from Bernie, the Chicago rally featured performances from The Tommies Reunion and Tina Watson Conley (singing the National Anthem). Destiny Harris, Danny Lyon, Ashley Galvan-Ramos, Ben Cohen, Representative Ro Khanna, and Senator Nina Turner were among the speakers. Check out pictures in the gallery above.

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photos by James Richards IV