Monday, January 22, 2018
Politics

In Philadelphia, protesters come out in droves

PHILADELPHIA — "Never Hillary" and "RIP, DNC" and "Bernie or Bust" read the placards as thousands of protesters, vociferously not with the unity-first program of the Democratic National Committee, gathered Monday to express dismay with their party, their presumed presidential nominee and a political system they consider corrupt.

Many left-wing groups skipped last week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland and focused instead on this city and the Democrats. They espoused a variety of causes: In addition to supporters of Bernie Sanders, people were protesting police brutality, advocating immigrant rights and pushing for gun control.

Sanders supporters repeatedly declared that there is no chance they will vote for Clinton, whose nomination many described as illegitimate. Sanders got a sense of that himself when, speaking midday at the Wells Fargo Center, the crowd rejected his call to support his former rival.

"I'm a Never Hillary person. Because she's corrupt. She represents everything we're against," said Luigi Costello, 60, of Sarasota, as he held a makeshift peace symbol at a late-morning protest at City Hall.

Although police braced for clashes between supporters and detractors of Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Republican convention in Cleveland, the confrontations never materialized. Philadelphia is another story: The crowds are here — and far larger than the ones in Cleveland. Some activists hope to disrupt the convention. Others plan to be arrested.

Philadelphia police say 55 people were cited for disorderly conduct after demonstrators tried to climb barricades near the convention.

Police say no one was arrested in the crowd of largely pro-Bernie Sanders protesters.

And 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.

The one constant Monday was the sun overhead. The heat index reached triple digits. Local authorities sounded as worried about people suffering heat stroke as they were about civil unrest and violence.

More protests are expected today.

During a joint rally at City Hall that stretched for more than two hours, Sanders supporters circulated an "open letter" from his delegates in which they urged superdelegates to abandon Clinton and vote for Sanders.

"You'd have to be crazy not to be worried about the possibility of Trump or Hillary becoming president," said Amanda Sullivan, 35, a computer programmer from Weston.

Said Jeremy Dolan, 24, of St. Petersburg, a Sanders supporter who said he votes in Democratic primaries and supported President Barack Obama in 2012, "We did eight years of Bush and nothing that bad happened, so we can deal with four years of Trump."

Philadelphia police officials said they've changed strategies since 2000, when the Republicans held their convention here and many people were arrested. Police will not use tear gas and have decriminalized certain protest-related nuisance crimes, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which quoted the mayor saying the city's goal is to make no arrests.

One flashpoint of protests had been the state flag of Mississippi, which contains a Confederate battle flag symbol. State flags had gone up along the street ahead of the convention. The mayor's office decided Monday to remove the Mississippi flag after hearing complaints from neighbors.

"Rip it down! Rip it down!" protesters chanted late Monday afternoon as they marched along Broad Street. Suddenly a city truck known as a cherry picker arrived on the scene, escorted by police. A city employee removed two Mississippi flags from opposite sides of the street as protesters cheered — a small victory, the activists felt, for People Power.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

   
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