Day One (Monday)
by Joseph Bullington
The headline on the early-Sunday Pittsburg paper read “Dems Promise Smooth Convention.” When we stopped just outside of Philadelphia to grab a paper on Monday morning, the headline of the Philadelphia Inquirer read “Turmoil at the Top.” In just 24 hours a leak of emails that showed that Democratic Party operatives had worked to sabotage the Bernie Sanders campaign during the primaries had led the party’s national chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, to resign and had driven thousands of angry Sanders supporters into the streets of Philadelphia on Sunday evening.
The rage carried over into the convention’s first day. On Monday afternoon we caught up with a pro-Sanders march, several hundred strong, headed down Broad Street toward the Wells Fargo convention center. When they got there, protesters pressed up against the security fences guarding the convention entrance and chanted and waved Bernie signs at delegates who snapped pictures from behind ranks of police.
The atmosphere was much more lively than the RNC, more playful and creative, and the crowds were much more diverse in race and age. But there was also an anti-Clinton sentiment to rival a Trump rally—though far less hateful and sexist. The television interviews with party officials claiming unity that were beamed out from inside the convention and the call of “Lock Her Up!” from the protesters outside felt as if they were coming out of two different realities. In the former, the Bernie supporters will eventually get quietly in line behind Clinton. In the other, it is still possible to believe at moments that Bernie has a shot at the nomination.
As the protesters hammered on the fences and chanted “Hell No DNC, We Won’t Vote for Hillary!” it dawned on me for the first time that these people aren’t bluffing. They really won’t vote for her. To what extent they represent the 13 million votes Sanders won in the primaries remains to be seen.
Day Two (Tuesday)
by Ariety Fried
Back outside the convention center at around 5 pm, a handful of protesters were assembled. It was hard to tell what was true and what was rumor floating around at high speed, but it seemed like everyone was waiting to hear if pro-Bernie delegates were going to walk out when the roll call was taken and Hillary was named the nominee.
By around 7:30, several hundred protesters were gathered and the word was that delegates were walking out. The protest moved around the fences, protesters with megaphones telling everyone where they thought the delegates would best be able to hear us. Around nine, we marched down Broad Street until running into the other march which had left from City Hall hours earlier and had just arrived. The protest, now at least a thousand people strong and with renewed energy, turned back to the convention center and marched until coming up against the fences, where it spread out in pockets.
Where we stood, the atmosphere was tense as some protesters crowded the fence. Lines of police and jail buses waited on the other side. One protester announced calmly that if anyone didn’t want to get arrested they should probably back up because he was thinking about taking the fence down and that he figured it would take 13 people to do it. This didn’t happen, someone burned a paper flag and we drifted down the fence line to where some people were saying the delegates who had walked out earlier would be leaving. Protesters pushed at a gap in the fence and were met by a line of cops behind it. As riot cops lurked in the bushes, some protesters urged everyone to keep it peaceful and to clear the way for the pro-Bernie delegates to thank them for their walk-out. By 10, there were still a lot of protesters around but so spread out that any action seemed to have come to a standstill. Very sweaty, we headed home.
During the march down Broad Street, I saw some Bernie supporters who had folded their BERNIE OR BUST signs to simply read BUST. What is BUST? For these guys and many other Berners, it means voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, who marched with protesters late into the night. For others, BUST will mean a write in vote for Bernie or not voting at all. When I told a Bernie supporter in a Hillary for Prison shirt that that was a popular slogan at the RNC, he said his mind was “still open” and that he was still doing his research. For some Bernie fans, “Never Hillary” could even turn into a vote for Trump.