Democrats headed into Day One of their national convention as a divided party. The fission was fueled by leaked emails showing that the Democratic National Committee conspired to hurt Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
Early Monday, Bernie Sanders sent out a text message and an email to delegates urging them not to engage in protests on the floor as a “personal courtesy” to him.
The Vermont senator said it was of the “utmost importance” that this be explained to the state delegations.
“Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out or other similar displays,” he said.
But Sander supporters made up a large portion of the hundreds of people who led an afternoon march from Philadelphia’s City Hall to near the Wells Fargo Center, the hub of the four-day convention.
Amid droves of protesters holding signs proclaiming “Never Hillary” and “Bernie Revolution” was Elaine Bennett-Scheib from Las Vegas. She was holding a giant papier-mâché representation of Sanders.
“This is our stand to let them know, ‘we’re done.’ We are no longer Democrats, if this is what the Democratic Party stands for. Finished,” Bennett-Scheib said.
Twenty-nine-year-old Aaron Davis of Ohio said he and his dad, a Navy veteran, got excited about Sanders. That enthusiasm, however, hasn’t transferred to Clinton. Especially important to him is the issue of prison and criminal justice reform.
“Right now, people have lost their trust in the DNC. And [outgoing Democratic National Party chairwoman] Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you know, all this is going on. And now she’s a part of Hillary’s campaign,” Davis said. “We kind of called this from the beginning. If some people actually paid attention to us.”
Also joining the protest was Cornel West, who was named by Sanders to be on the DNC platform committee. He was an early backer of Sanders but now that his candidate is out, West is supporting Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who addressed protesters throughout the day. At one rally implored her followers to “forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.”
It was a message echoed by West.
“The reason the Democratic Party has run out of gas, is because it is so controlled by corporate elites, it is so controlled by big money, it is so controlled by big banks, they have lost sight of working people and people of all colors,” West said.
Camden to Philadelphia
A separate march of about a hundred people trekked from Camden’s City Hall to Philadelphia City Hall.
Members of a group called Occupy DNC, largely made up of Sanders supporters, chanted “black lives matter!” and “We are the 99 percent!” as they marched through the streets were honks and shouts of support from passing motorists below the Ben Franklin Bridge.
For some, it was too soon to talk about party unity and supporting Clinton.
“This is unacceptable,” said Stamford, Connecticut, resident Luke Van Craeynest. “You can’t do this and expect all these people to fall in line with a candidate that was propped up by an establishment.”
Camden rally organizer Gary Frazier’s frustration went much deeper than the leaked emails. Many local and national problems are not caused simply by Republicans but also establishment Democrats, he said.
“It’s the Democrats who run our cities … that our urban communities are the way that they look. It’s Democrats who oversee the homelessness in our city. It’s Democrats who control this mess that you see across the street here,” Frazier said.
Edna Davis, a Clinton supporter, mistook the gathering for a Black Lives Matter rally but stayed to spar with Sanders supporters telling them to focus on the general election now.
Bernie Sanders “lost! Get over it!” Davis went on. “I think you (should) support Hillary and put her in, and then y’all can fight for what y’all want.”
By Monday evening, after a massive thunder and lightning storm, Philadelphia police said 55 people had been cited for disorderly conduct after demonstrators tried to climb barricades near the Democratic convention.
Police said no one was arrested in that crowd of largely pro-Sanders demonstrators.
Transit officials are now keeping anyone without a convention ticket from taking the Broad Street subway to the final stop at the arena. They say police requested the move to control crowds outside the site.
There is one thing that everyone can agree on; it is really, really hot out there. “It is absolutely oppressive,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Monday afternoon.
With dozens of protest marches planned during the DNC in Philadelphia and high temperatures to continue in the 90s through Thursday, the heat has become a public safety issue.
“We’re concerned that some people traveling down Broad Street, which is a little over a 3-mile walk, may be overestimating their ability to make that walk,” said Ross in the midst of one demonstration
City workers who already had left bottled water along protest routes for overheated marchers to drink added even more Monday, as the heat index pushed toward a scorching 109 degrees, said Sam Phillips, director of the city’s emergency management.