They may be angry at leaders of the Democratic National Convention, but protesters are giving Philadelphia’s police and fire departments an A+ for their work in the demonstration zone set up in FDR Park.
The police have been maintaining a low-key presence in the park, which is bordered by eight-foot high security fencing.
“They’ve been kind of hanging out watching things,” Brian Murphy, a Bernie Sanders supporter from North Carolina. They haven’t been disruptive so they’ve been very well and helpful, keeping the event organized and keeping it calm.”
Lahoma Buckley, who traveled from Michigan to be part of the pro-Sanders demonstrations, said she didn’t know what to expect and gave her experience a rave review.
“The facilities — they had plenty of restrooms for us that were well-cleaned and well-kept,” Buckley said. “There was water for all of us and bags of food. And the people here — if you have questions, they’re more than generous with their knowledge and directing us the right way. The fire department — keeping the fire hydrants open and making sure we were cool.”
It’s a decidedly different tone than the one that was set 16 years ago when Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention and about 420 protesters were arrested during violent clashes with police. The city shelled out tens of thousands of dollars settling lawsuits from protesters who claimed the police violated their civil rights.
This time, officers are even allowing a small group to camp in the park overnight, despite efforts by the city to enforce its no-camping rule.
Spiral Cheri hitched a ride from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week and is staying in one of the roughly 30 tents pitched on the grass.
“The police presence is definitely like one-tenth of what it was at the RNC,” Cheri said, sitting on the ground and smoking a joint. “I was actually pretty shocked.”
The campers’ only complaint? The FDR skatepark is temporarily closed.