Los Angeles artist Alex Schaefer marched inside his 10-foot-tall Big Bernie creation.
Searing heat didn’t initially stifle the spirit of about 2,000 “Bernie or Bust” marchers on Philadelphia’s unshaded Broad Street Sunday. They shouted their defiance of a Democratic National Convention poised to nominate Hillary Clinton for president.
“Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!” fist-shaking marchers chanted along the first half of a 3.5-mile route from Philadelphia City Hall to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park near the barricaded convention hall.
“If we don’t get it, shut it down!” the Sanders diehards also threatened.
Some suggested in interviews that there is still hope of the Democrats turning to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday night, delivering victory to the Vermont socialist as an act of penance for what many of his supporters maintain was a rigged primary voting process. Failure to right that perceived wrong will mean trouble in Philly, the more militant protestors seemed to suggest.
WikiLeaks’ publication of hacked emails written by Democratic National Committee staffers showed they are “not a bunch of crackhead conspiracy theorists,” said Los Angeles artist Alex Schaefer. Some of the leaked messages confirmed Sanders’ complaint that the nominally neutral Democratic Party hierarchy was actually working to ensure Clinton’s nomination.
Kevin J. Kelley
Some Sanders backers also favor Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Schaefer marched on Sunday inside his 10-foot-tall, bobble-headed Big Bernie creation that, he said, took six weeks to build in his LA studio. Why make such a commitment? He answered that question while rehydrating beneath a tree in FDR Park. “Thoreau said to strike the root,” Schaefer explained. “The financial system is the root of what’s wrong with this country, and Bernie is striking it, so I’m strongly for him.”
There were few gray heads and not many black or brown faces among marchers who grew bedraggled and quieter as the 97-degree afternoon wore on. Cheers broke out at a couple of street corners where police officers had opened fire hydrants to send a cooling spray over sweaty Bernie Bros.
Two smiling girls — Shalom Dinberg, 7, and Gabriella Goldstein, 13 —trouped along with their mother, Deanna Cohen, who said she had traveled with them from Portland, Ore. “I wanted to teach my kids not to roll over, not to give up,” Cohen said. She added in a disparaging reference to Clinton, “I don’t want them to think feminism is just for white women of privilege.”
Kevin J. Kelley
Deanna Cohen and her two daughters, Shalom Dinberg, 7, and Gabriella Goldstein, 13, after the march
Gail Mayer, a 32-year-old Sanders volunteer from Brooklyn, gave voice to a point of view that many marchers seemed to share. “I want our government to be a democracy, not an oligarchy,” Mayer declared. “Hillary is an oligarch because she takes money from corporations. She’s probably as bad as Trump.”
Asked if she was disappointed by Sanders’ stated intention to vote for Clinton, Mayer said, “That’s his choice, not mine. I’ll most likely vote for [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein.”
Judy O’Leary of Bolton Landing on New York’s Lake George is likewise refusing to follow Sanders’ lead. “I’m not going to vote out of fear anymore,” O’Leary said in response to the argument that progressives have an obligation to vote for Clinton to fend off the Trump threat. “I’m going to vote my values.”
One marcher’s sign expressed the same sentiment: “The lesser evil is still an evil.”
Sunday’s demonstration was not without levity. Michael Doyle journeyed from Leavenworth, Kan., to FDR Park, where his Captain Planet costume drew smiles and high fives. That particular cartoon figure “seemed like he’d definitely be for Bernie,” Doyle said. “He fights pollution. He’s not for fracking. He’s an eco-hero, just like Bernie.”
Kevin J. Kelley
Michael Doyle of Leavenworth, Kan. as Planet Man, alongside Judy O'Leary of Bolton Landing, NY.