Protests Rage At Day One Of The DNC

July 25, 2016
Sam Roudman

The pro-Bernie group is having a final hurrah at the DNC in Philadelphia

The growing crowd chants “We are peaceful, we are kind!” and “Feel the Bern!” They wear t-shirts that say “Bernie Sanders is my spirit animal,” and carry signs proclaiming “Education not incarceration” and “Stop the racist drug war.” There are too many of them to count.     

The first morning of the Democratic National Convention kicked off with thousands of protesters converging on downtown Philadelphia. They’re here to support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton—or to voice their discontent towards both. As the morning heated up—the day’s high is forecast at 99 degrees—the growing crowd waved signs and chanted chants around Philadelphia’s city hall.

“If you only pay attention to mainstream media, you don’t know the truth,” says Rosanne Ferrara, a 53-year-old who took a 6:30 a.m. bus from Penn Station in New York Monday morning. She’s wearing a white dress and a construction paper crown. Around her waist she’s tied a t-shirt that reads “Fuck fear.” She says she will never vote for Hillary Clinton, and adds “I am not alone.”

Both her points were echoed by Rachel Tores, a 20-year-old from New York’s Lower East Side. She has orange hair with black showing down by the roots and a right arm half covered in tattoos. She pays attention to mainstream news but prefers independent media like the Young Turks, and sometimes Alex Jones even though he is “a little crazy.”

Monday’s vigorous protests contrast sharply with those at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. While both parties are dealing with inner party insurgencies, the atmosphere has been very different. While the RNC saw a whittled down guest list, party heavy-hitters staying home, and Ted Cruz booed off stage for refusing to endorse his party’s nominee, the outside protests were quieter, typified by small groups separated by an overwhelming police presence. In Philadelphia Monday morning, a comparatively small and local police presence, some wearing Blue Lives Matter pins, kept the peace for much larger crowds.

One of the major issues of conversation among protesters is Wikileaks’ release of Democratic National Committee emails which showed DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz and her staff formulating strategies against Bernie Sanders. There was a consensus among protesters on the contents of the DNC leak: no surprise.

“It verifies what everyone is thinking,” says Noah Flemens, a 27-year-old grad student at Cornell. All the other protesters Vocativ spoke with agreed. Schultz has since resigned her position.

In a cafe adjacent City Hall, David Cobb, a former Green Party presidential candidate waits to meet with the organizers of Bernie or Bust in a bid to get them to push their weight behind the Green Party.

“There is something happening in this election cycle that I’ve never seen,” he says—with maverick candidates bucking the establishment in both parties.

“In 2004, we had the telephone and the internet was in its infancy,” he says. “There was no such thing as social media.” Now, he says online organizing is developed to the point where outsider voices are no longer dependent on the mainstream media to define their narrative. This allows for different kinds of coordination. As an example he points to an organization he’s a part of called Move to Amend, an ongoing campaign against corporate personhood, the idea behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

“We were founded in 2010” he says, with “12 people in a living room. Today we’re 408,000 people across the country.” He says they’ve won 350 ballot initiatives in cities across the country, both liberal and conservative. “We authentically relate to principled conservatives on [this] campaign,” he says. “That wouldn’t have been possible without the internet and social media platforms.”

The protests might seem like the sign of a fractured party, but many also see them as a healthy part of the process. Ce Cole Dillon is an Illinois delegate and member of the platform committee. She stands in a strip of shade by the south entrance of the City Hall complex. “Over the years we have seen this before,” she says. “We want them to be franchised; we want them to be committed,” says Dillon, surveying the growing crowd.

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