Philadelphia is bracing for up to 200,000 protesters — even as organizers insist there could be up to 1 million.
A “fart-in” so people can smell the “stink” of U.S. political system, a “Clintonville” shanty town modeled off of then Hoovervilles of the 1930s, de-registration efforts by multiple groups — these are just a few things that demonstrators protesting this week’s Democratic National Convention have up their sleeves.
Some protest groups are waiting for permits from the city to demonstrate at the convention, others received permits months ago. Both on the permission side and on the organizing side, these demonstrations are still largely a work in progress. But they will be seen and they will be heard, with Philadelphia bracing for up to 200,000 demonstrators — even as organizers insist there could be up to 1 million.
Here are some of the individuals and groups leading the charge:
Billy Taylor, a 31-year old landscaper and creator of a pro-Sanders PAC called Philly. FYI, has 7 permits — many lasting for multiple days and multiple zones. He is seeking to protest Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee for supporting “puppet politicians” reliant on corporate donors.
Taylor is sharing his permits with other progressive national groups such as The People’s Revolution and The World Cannot Wait. He will kick off the week with a boom: a rally and march for Bernie Sanders in FDR Park, just a mile from the convention arena.
“I started early and helped other organizers on a national level because I could go to city hall whenever I pleased,” explains Taylor, a Philadelphia native who thinks that there will be over one million Bernie Sanders supporters descending upon the city.
“I also wanted to prevent any Hillary Clinton supporters from getting permits. I want the city to feel the Bern. That has been successful.”
Taylor says all groups he is working with have all taken a pledge to be peaceful, but says he is worried that the federal government will infiltrate the marches to cause trouble.
Black Men for Bernie, which was launched in the spring, will hold a rally at Thomas Paine Plaza on July 27th. They expect about 3,000 to 4,000 people to attend.
“We want to show that solidarity for Sanders is real. If he does not receive the nomination we will have a call the day after to initiative a de-registration so that people who are registered all over the country are re-registered under another party,” explains Bruce Carter, the group’s founder, who believes that Sanders can still win the nomination.
He says he would like to see the Democratic Party “implode” when Clinton is nominated: “Hillary Clinton is above the law, she is the queen of the nation and we should not have a queen.”
Similarly, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights campaign will be protesting Clinton due to her husband’s record when it comes to prisons. They will also be demonstrating against the treatment of poor and low-income people more broadly.
“The convention here in Philadelphia is going to make the [famously chaotic and violent] 1968 convention look like a picnic,” explains Cheri Honkala, who has helped to organize the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign March to End Homelessness that will go from City Hall to FDR Park on July 25th. They have been organizing their protest for months and say they are expecting at least 10,000 people.
The organization will also create a “Clintonville,” a mock-up shanty town setup that will take up a full city block. On the last day of the convention, the group is also plans to have a “fart-in” where they are going to feed people beans in an effort to “show the entire world that this process stinks,” says Honkala.
OCCUPY DNC, a group protesting what they view as a fraudulent and corrupt election system, will be marching down Broad Street on July 25th along with many other protest groups for the “March for Our Lives.” They will host a rally that that they expect will draw at least 20,000 people on July 27th and 28th in FDR Park.
Laurie Cestnick, the creator of OCCUPY DNC, also wants to encourage protesters to get outside of FDR park and into the downtown area so they can be heard by convention attendees. She believes that Bernie Sanders won the primary, and that Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton just illustrates how corrupt the system is.
“Within 5-12 hours of the endorsement everyone turned around and said Bernie had a gun to his head. They are making him do this. Just like they decided who the candidate would be, even before Bernie even ran,” Cestnick says. “We have to beat them because if we do not democracy is gone.”
Meanwhile, Green Party nominee Jill Stein will be hosting a rally of her own in FDR Park on Monday evening. Her campaign expects supporters to partake in other events all week sponsored by other groups, including many that Stein will speak at.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign originally put in a request for a “Future to Believe In” rally but it was denied because, according to the city, the field where they wanted to do it is subject to a multi-party agreement that does not permit usage for non-recreational purposes. Sanders is set to speak at the convention on Monday. His campaign has not yet told supporters to attend any specific protests or convene in any one location.
There also more than half a dozen organizations that are still awaiting approval for protest permits from the city, such as the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, which protests police brutality. Permit or no permit, they expect at least 500 people will attend their rally on July 26th.
“Police officers are antagonizing and targeting black and brown people and we need to address those issues,” says Erica Mines, a 38-year-old Philadelphia organizer who is a leader of the group.