Protesters prepare to flood Philadelphia for convention

Protesters prepare to flood Philadelphia for convention
© Getty Images

Tens of thousands of protesters from across the country are descending on the Democratic National Convention, preparing to test months of planning by law enforcement officials.

Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney’s office estimates that up to 50,000 protesters will be in the city per day, with many in FDR Park — directly across the street from the Wells Fargo Center.


Much of the action will come from fervent supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders wishes Ocasio-Cortez happy birthday Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Sanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption MORE (I-Vt.), who argue it’s not too late for the senator to grab the presidential nomination from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonVideo of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Ronan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' MORE at the 11th hour.

“We can still win this,” said Billy Taylor, who is organizing pro-Sanders protests around the convention. “We’re not going to vote for the demon named Hillary. … We stand with the honorable man. We’re not standing with the Democrats.”

According to a list of approved protest permits from the Philadelphia mayor’s office, Sanders supporters — including Occupy DNC and Black Men for Bernie — have events planned for each day of the convention.

Taylor said supporters of his organization — Philly.FYI — are planning to occupy and potentially camp in FDR Park throughout the week.

There will be no shortage of theatrics as activists, many of whom vow to never support Clinton, gather outside of the convention.

Taylor said they will deliver a coffin carrying voter “de-registration” petitions to the convention Thursday.

“It’s a sign that the party’s dead to us,” he said, noting the coffin will be at FDR Park throughout the week.

A “dramatic performance showing the trial of Hillary Clinton” and a vigil to “commemorate the death of democracy” are both scheduled for Monday, according to the list of approved protests from the mayor’s office.

Not every protest will be directed at Clinton. One protest approved to run through most of the convention will focus on “daily prayer for world peace and unity.”

The Westboro Baptist Church, known for its anti-gay rhetoric and protests at the funerals of military service members, has also been approved to protest in FDR Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.

As of late last week, a request to hold a rally supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE from Monday through Wednesday was among a handful of permits still pending.

Bruce Carter, founder of Black Men for Bernie, said the group’s events will focus on issues that are larger than just Sanders. That includes economic inequality, criminal justice reform and poverty.

“I’m hoping, if nothing else ... that someone or something is willing to be the glue to bring America to another place, whether it’s economically or especially on the race issues,” Carter, who won’t support Clinton, said. “There are common bonds that we can work with. That’s where we want to go.”

The Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter didn’t respond to a request for comment about the group’s plans for the convention, but Asa Khalif, who heads the state chapter, told Philadelphia Magazine that they will demonstrate.

The convention comes amid increasing tensions with law enforcement after a string of recent shootings targeting police officers.

Amnesty International is sending observers to the convention to monitor protests and how law enforcement responds.

The group sent a letter to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. earlier this month, noting, “Police authorities are required to act in accordance with international human rights standards and the U.S. Constitution in the policing of protests.”

The Philadelphia Police Department declined to say how many officers it would have around the Wells Fargo Center for the convention, noting it “does not discuss deployment strategies for any event.”         

Law enforcement officers have been targeted in a string of shootings this month. Five police officers were killed when a sniper opened fire in Dallas during a demonstration against police-involved shootings of black men, and three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, La., by a man targeting police.

“We have to plan for any possible scenarios that might happen,” said a Secret Service spokesman. “They trained for everything from active shoots to the situation ... in France.”

Dozens of agencies — including the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department — were involved in the months-long planning of security measures for the party’s official nomination of Clinton.

Law enforcement is planning tight security steps that will make getting to the convention site difficult. Most of the roads around the Wells Fargo Center will be closed or have restricted access, and the area around the convention is a “no drone zone.”

Backpacks, balloons, selfie sticks, weapons and explosives are among nearly two dozen items specifically banned from the convention site. The Secret Service warns it could also confiscate other items determined to be “potential safety hazards.”

The convention comes just days after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where the Philadelphia Police Department sent police officers to observe how law enforcement there secured the convention in preparation for the Democratic event.

FDR Park will also be considered a “secured area” during the convention, meaning protesters won’t be able to bring in guns, even though state law allows for concealed firearms with a license.

Taylor, noting that his group has been meeting regularly with city officials, said he hasn’t heard concerns from supporters worried about protesting in the wake of the shootings.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “This is a fear tactic to discourage people from coming to the streets. ... We must gather in the streets.”

But Carter said that while he hasn’t had supporters back out of events, he’s gotten phone calls reminding him to “be safe” while protesting in Philadelphia.  

“You don’t know. All it takes is one,” he said. “Now anytime you bring a crowd of people together in America you have to be cautious.”