Democratic Convention Draws Thousands Of Protesters To Philadelphia

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Intense heat no barrier to demonstrations as clean energy activists and Bernie Sanders supporters jam route from city hall to Liberty Bell

housands of demonstrators took to the sweltering streets of Philadelphia on Sunday, chanting and beating drums in the first major protests ahead of the Democratic national convention.

Throngs of clean energy activists jammed a major thoroughfare in a mile-long march from city hall to Independence Mall, near the Liberty Bell. They held anti-fracking and anti-pipeline signs, some with illustrations such as a train surrounded by a fireball and the words “No Exploding Trains”. Others held “Bernie or Bust” signs.

Sam Miller, 82, had traveled from Erie, Pennsylvania, to join the march that stretched several blocks and across a wide street as temperatures in the city soared into the mid-90s. He said he was inspired because “fracking is invading Mother Earth”.

As in Cleveland around the Republican convention this week, police were using bicycles as barricades and volunteers were handing out water to marchers. Shoppers came out of stores to watch the march.

Chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” were met by counter echoes of “Hillary! Hillary!”

Bernie Sanders supporters expect about 3,000 protesters to join them in a march from City Hall to a park near the convention site in the afternoon.

The heat wave that descended on the city was showing no mercy, with the city under an “excessive heat” warning from the National Weather Service. It was expected to peak on Monday, the convention’s first day, with temperatures possibly hitting 100F (38C).

Crowds braving the weather could take advantage of “misting tents” and free water, compliments of the city. Mayor Jim Kenney warned people to limit time outdoors and said demonstrations would be put on hold in the event of thunderstorms.

The first march on Sunday encountered a perennial Philadelphia problem: parking. DC to DNC organizer Ed Higgins said finding parking spots and organizing the crowd delayed his group’s march, which got going about an hour late.

The group of about a dozen marchers walked on sidewalks from near the convention site up toward the Liberty Bell. One played This Land is Your Land on bagpipes as the group weaved around people eating brunch at sidewalk cafes and others walking dogs.

Protests and demonstrations are planned throughout the city during the convention, some of the largest starting about four miles north of the arena.

In Cleveland, most protests were concentrated in a tight, 1.7-square mile zone downtown. A heavy police presence and fewer than expected protesters helped keep the calm. There were only about two dozen arrests and no significant injuries.

Philadelphia’s protests come as Sanders called for the head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to step down after leaked emails suggested the party favored Clintonduring the presidential primary.

Emails posted to the website Wikileaks show that at least some DNC officials were looking at ways to undercut Sanders’ campaign, including questioning his religious beliefs. Sanders told ABC’s This Week that Wasserman Schultz should resign immediately.

More than 5,000 delegates are among the 50,000 people set to attend the gathering at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, which is expected to culminate with Clinton being named the party’s official nominee for president.

The former secretary of state and first lady has named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.