On the second day of the Democratic National Convention, peaceful but aggressive protests continued outside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Inside, hundreds of Bernie Sanders delegates staged a walkout, which culminated in occupying the media tent. At a press conference Wednesday morning, delegate Karen Bernal of the Bernie Delegates Network confirmed that delegates objecting inside had coordinated with protesters outside. She gave no indication Sanders had anything to do with it.
Tuesday’s protests were larger and more vigorous than they had been on the first day of the convention. The harsh level of vitriol against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee remained widespread. Chants of “Lock her up” echoed the same at last week’s Republican convention. Demonstrators also carried signs reading #DemExit, a reference to the Brexit vote, indicating they are finished with the Democratic Party.
There were a few tense moments as some militant protesters scaled the barricades separating them from the convention. Those behind them began shaking the fences, and someone threw at least one water bottle at police. Pepper spray wafted through the air, but things calmed quickly as protest leaders regained some control over the crowd.
A Scene of Controlled Chaos
As night began to fall, word of the delegate walkout spread outside quickly. It seemed protesters were getting reports of the delegates taking over the media tent before that had been reported. Bernal, who was present, said the next day that “millennial” Sanders delegates were texting their movements to friends in the protests outside. Bernal described a generational divide, with younger delegates favoring a move to FDR Park to join the protests, and older ones urging more caution.
Eventually word spread that some delegates had joined the protests and were marching north on Broad Street away from the convention. About 15 minutes later, they met a well-organized southbound Black Lives Matters march at Oregon Avenue, a few blocks away. Here the marches converged, with some white protesters urging BLM to lead the way back to the convention. It was a scene of controlled chaos handled expertly by the Philadelphia police, many of whom were on bikes flanking the march.
After returning to the convention, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a favorite among the demonstrators, appeared and attempted to address the crowd. Chants of “mic check” meant to quiet the crowd rang out, and Stein was given a megaphone. But she was more or less inaudible amid the screaming crowd.
Interestingly, Stein had also been present during the delegate occupation of the media tent. This presents the possibility that the Sanders delegates coordinating with protesters outside were also coordinating with Stein, who has emerged as the favorite progressive alternative to Clinton.
Tell Us What You Really Think of Hillary Clinton
Last night’s events come amid Hillary Clinton’s scramble to shore up her left by appeasing Sanders supporters. Despite some significant concessions in the Democratic platform and rules, many Sanders supporters remain skeptical, if not downright derisive of Clinton’s promises to implement progressive policies.
It’s not just the masses outside who have been unimpressed by the convention so far. Bernie Delegates Network is an organization of Sanders delegates who have been surveying delegates. Today they offered some results that look very bad for the Democratic nominee.
BDN asked delegates: “Having heard the speeches at the convention, are you more enthusiastic, less enthusiastic, or unchanged about the Democratic ticket?” Fifty-five percent of delegates reported they were less enthusiastic, with a mere 21 percent saying their enthusiasm had increased. This number has to disappoint a Clinton campaign that feels it bent to Bernie on the platform and filled the stage with a number of progressive speakers.
If there was glimmer of hope for Clinton and the DNC in today’s press conference, it was that Sanders delegates seem unsure of where to go from here. They plan no specific actions, and there appears to be no agreement on whether to accept Clinton’s nomination.
Protesters are protesters—they are by definition more angry and extreme in their views than an average Sanders voter. But the delegate walkout coordinated with protests suggests disaffection with Clinton may be more widespread than mere protesters alone might indicate.
As Tim Kaine, who is deeply unpopular with Sanders supporters, takes the stage to accept the vice presidential nomination he will have to work hard to win back some Sanders folks. Bernal suggested walking back some previous statements about the Trans Pacific Partnership and support for big banks could move the needle. But for now, the schism in the Democratic Party is very real and very wide. Clinton must change that before Americans go to the polls in November.