PHILADELPHIA — Hillary's party is off to a more disastrous start than Donald’s.
Many observers predicted that the Republican National Convention would be a calamity—with Ohio’s open-gun laws and white supremacists bringing the potential for chaos. And there were certainly times where it was as advertised inside the hall: don’t forget the Melania Trump plagiarism scandal, the Ted Cruz non-endorsement, and an adviser calling for the Democratic nominee to be shot for treason.
But in Philadelphia, where the Democrats are now huddled to crown Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee, the protests have been louder, the party division more deeply felt, and the daily grind more difficult to trudge through.
As much as they touted unity and taunted Republicans for their disastrous convention, the Democrats clearly had just as much—if not more—disarray within their own party,
It started Monday afternoon, as protesters marched down Philadelphia’s famed Broad Street, from city hall to the main entrance to the perimeter—a distance of almost seven miles.
The demonstrators, many of them sporting “Bernie 2016” shirts and other Sanders campaign swag, varied their chants as they marched. Their message, however, remained uniform: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should never be president because they are both a part of the same corrupt and rigged political system that has created such anger among those on the left and right.
Protesters from the group Democracy Spring, which seeks to limit the role of money in politics, marched straight up to a convention entrance to stage a sit-in, which blocked one of the convention hall’s entrances. Approximately a dozen were hauled off by cops—to cheers from their supporters.
The anger and ferocity of the demonstrations dwarfed any similar protests in Cleveland. The Republican Party, for all its division, never had thousands of members of its own party jeering passersby on the perimeter of their convention.
On just the first day of the convention at least 55 demonstrators, 32 men and 23 women, were forcibly led away in handcuffs and issued code violation notices for disorderly conduct.
In the entire week of the Republican National Convention, just 24 individuals were arrested.
The sweltering heat and humidity in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon—soaring to nearly 100 degrees—did not deter pro-Sanders protesters, nor did it diminish their intensity.
“Bern the DNC!” demonstrators repeatedly shouted, with the organizer clarifying to the media that the chant was not meant to incite violence. Others repeated the line, “Bernie beats Trump!”—a reference to their belief and early polling that indicated Sanders had a better chance of defeating Trump in the general election than Clinton.
There were even flashes of the Republican National Convention: demonstrators shouted “Lock Her Up” from outside the Democratic National Convention’s perimeter fences. Others held signs that said, “Hillary for Prison,” a slogan first originated from the conspiracy website InfoWars.
"She's the worst. Worse than Trump in my opinion. She's clearly owned by the bankers," one Bernie supporter said, wearing a 'Hillary for Prison' shirt. "She's a puppet of the military-industrial complex."
As delegates and members of the media were funneled through security, protesters screamed at them from on the other side of the gates: “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!” they shouted, and “You need us! We don’t need you!”
Nearby, a woman in a Hillary Clinton mask sat silently on the curb, protesting the nominee’s foreign policy philosophy with a vulture marked ‘war’ on her shoulder.
One demonstrator waved the sign “No to ‘Deb’ocracy!”—a nod to outgoing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who resigned over a leak of her organization’s emails that showed favoritism to Clinton’s campaign.
Shortly after the pro-Sanders crowd reached the entrance to the convention perimeter, they were met by supporters of Donald Trump who were shouting anti-gay slurs at them through bullhorns and holding signs that read “Homo sex is sin” and “Jesus is angry with you sinners.” Many of them were wearing Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats.
After approaching the demonstrators, the pro-Trump crowd—numbering no more than 10—was quickly surrounded by a group of 15 Philadelphia police officers who were protecting them as the Sanders diehards began approaching and shouting at them.
Meanwhile, reporters and convention-goers alike were visibly frustrated by the confusing logistical setup outside the arena. Getting around outside the Wells Fargo Center and the two other stadiums in south Philadelphia was a nightmare for many reporters who were attempting to exit and re-enter the perimeter.
Center City, where many of the convention’s parties and meetings are being held, is located three miles away from the Wells Fargo Center, where the convention is taking place. Add that to road closures, a sweltering day and the confusion of a city many delegates are not accustomed to—and the result was a palpable frustration among the politicos and journalists in Philadelphia.
To make things even worse, a thunderstorm moved in over the city as the convention neared prime time. A flash flood warning was issued. The press tent began to leak. Lightning threatened real danger to those outside. Demonstrators began to flee, and at one point the city even suggested that they take cover under a nearby overpass.
One exasperated Philadelphia police officer appeared resigned to the logistical nightmare—and the next three days of convention activities to come.
“Even the Pope visit wasn’t this bad,” he deadpanned.