The demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention are already bigger than anything seen at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which was noteworthy for its lack of protests.
The tone in Philadelphia seems much different. Numerous groups are hitting the streets to bring attention to issues they feel are not represented by the current Democratic Party platform—or to protest that Hillary Clinton herself does not represent the progressive values that former candidate Bernie Sanders did.
‘Bernie or Bust’ supporters and the Green Party
From the start of the convention on Monday, Sanders’ supporters have made themselves heard on the streets and inside the convention halls. Though Sanders officially threw his support behind Clinton on July 12, more than a thousand Sanders supporters marched through the streets Sunday afternoon.
Inside the convention arena, Sanders’ delegates booed nearly everyone who mentioned Clinton’s name—whether it was Cory Booker, a liberal senator who some Democrats had hoped to see as Clinton’s pick for vice president, or Elizabeth Warren, known as a champion of financial reform.
Iowa delegate @chris_laursen: “Bernie basically fed us a bunch of Mountain Dew and now he wants us to go to bed. It’s not going to happen.”— Jason Noble (@jasonnobleDMR) July 25, 2016
Some of Sanders’ most vocal supporters, such as Cornel West, have pledged to vote outside of the Democratic party altogether, supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who held a rally Monday evening featuring some of the country’s most famous progressive activists, including Cheri Honkala, a major figure in Philly’s welfare-rights movement, and Medea Benjamin of the anti-war group, Code Pink.
The Green Party’s substantial convention presence highlights the divide between the Democratic Party platform and grassroots environmental movements. Monday, according to police estimates, between 5,000 and 10,000 people marched in sweltering conditions to protest fracking, a controversial gas-extraction process that Clinton has taken heat for tepidly supporting.
Immigration-rights and human-rights activists
While many have been alarmed by Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, immigration-rights activists have converged on Philadelphia to protest the Obama administration’s record-breaking deportations of migrant families and Clinton’s own fraught stances on immigration. Monday, organizers flocked from across the country to voice support for the closure of a family detention center outside of Philadelphia, according to Fox News Latino.
Some of the groups staging pro-migrant protests came from far out of state. The People’s Caravan, for example, organized nearly 50 people to march from Cleveland to Philadelphia to raise awareness about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy history in Latin America, particularly in Honduras.
Caught up w/ the It Takes Roots caravan: "We are here to demand justice for Berta Caceres..put pressure on Clinton" pic.twitter.com/EEpSgbDPoO— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) July 24, 2016
The caravan included the daughter of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran indigenous-rights activist whose suspicious murder in March sparked international outrage. Two years before her death, Cáceres had denounced Clinton for her alleged support of the new Honduran government, installed after a 2009 coup (and now notorious for its human rights abuses).
“In Honduras, Berta Cáceres was protecting sacred sites threatened by hydroelectric dams, and other corporate projects on indigenous land…” says *Alberto Saldamando, a lawyer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, who participated in the march from Cleveland to Philadelphia. “And we were greeted by the Muncie nation here in Philadelphia yesterday. They are also fighting development of their land, to stop the state from taking their water… Exactly the same issues that Berta Cáceres was fighting.”
”One of the things that the Democratic party needs to be clear about is not taking the Latino and black vote for granted,” says Cindy Wiesner*, the national coordinator for Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which organized the People’s Caravan. “We see that in her pick for the vice president that she's playing it safe, rather than speaking to the concerns of the real community. So ... thats why we’re here, so that she doesn't continue veering to the right.”
Local Black Lives Matter groups
On Sunday, news broke that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be making a prime-time speech to endorse Hillary Clinton. As mayor of New York, Bloomberg aggressively expanded and persistently defended “stop and frisk,” a controversial NYPD initiative that disproportionately targeted black and Latino residents and has since been significantly scaled back there.
Megan Malachi, an organizer with the anti-police brutality group Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, offers her reasoning for protesting Clinton: “If you study Clinton, even going back to the 1994 Crime Bill,” says Malachi, “It is clear that she plays to law-and-order white people while trying to make black people forget the horrible things she and her husband have done.”
In 1994, Hillary Clinton lobbied Congress on behalf of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which enshrined longer mandatory prison sentences, recategorized less serious crimes into felonies, helped localities hire tens of thousands more police officers, and allocated $9.7 billion for prisons throughout the country.
Bloomberg’s appearance is likely to galvanize outcry in Philadelphia, a city in which black activists are currently waging a battle to end the city’s own “stop and frisk” program, among other issues of police brutality. Just last week, Philly Coalition for REAL Justice activists and others blocked streets in an attempted occupation of North Philadelphia’s 39th Police District. (The Philly Coalition for REAL Justice is one of hundreds of anti-police brutality groups nationwide that is understood to be part of the largely decentralized national Black Lives Matter movement).
Tuesday, Malachi’s group is leading a march to protest “stop and frisk,” a demonstration which is expected to draw hundreds of local black youth—far more than any similar demonstrations at the RNC. Malachi attributes the larger expected turnout to her group’s consistent efforts to demonstrate locally against police brutality, in Philadelphia and around the country.
July 26, 2016
(UPDATE: The Black DNC Resistance March Against Police is starting to convene).
”This protest is actually locally based here in Philly with groups right here,” says Malachi. “This is a major national event and people are clued into our efforts in Philly, so we do expect a lot of comrades to come out and stand in solidarity with us.”
In Cleveland, security forces ensured that protesters were largely contained to confined areas far from the convention center, and only 18 protesters were arrested. So far, no arrests have been made at the DNC, but Malachi thinks police will be more aggressive as more majority-black groups take to the streets.
“They definitely have been attempting to keep protesters at bay here, too,” she says. “But here in Philly, we’ve been organizing against police terrorism for a long time. Cops here know they've never been able to contain us, and we have never been the type of group that allows that. … [W]e’re gonna make them really tired today.”
*CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the spellings of Cindy Wiesner’s and Alberto Saldamando’s names.