The Democratic National Convention has been a dramatic and emotional mess, with chanting and arrests and much wailing and gnashing of teeth, while last week’s Republican convention, by contrast was an orderly coronation of a guy, Donald Trump, whose most fervent supporters would really like to see a return to a whites-only monarchy like the kind Philadelphia helped defeat against very long odds.
Thousands of American Citizens marched down Broad Street on Monday from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. They chanted “Bernie Beats Trump! Hillary You’ve Got to Go!” and “Never Hillary!” as the Democratic party delegates exited the subway station near the Arena and walked through behind a giant metal fence meant to keep them at bay. It’s a deep irony that a campaign opposed to wall building is relying on a metal barrier to go about its business. It’s also ironic considering Clinton’s tagline is “breaking down barriers.”
The Democracy Spring movement, as it calls itself, wants to break down barriers, even if it means getting arrested.
“One person! One vote!” shouted Sameera Khan, 25, former Ms. New Jersey 2015 and a Muslim American opposed to Clinton. She’s there because she read about the world around her, and figured she needed to do something to make it a more just place.
“What brings you here today?”
“I’ve been involved in the political community for a very long time and studied international relations. I’ve been involved with Democracy Spring ever since I read about the Israel lobby and corporate influence that’s what awakened me and made me realize that I have to fight. We are only as powerful as what we know. Knowledge is power, and once we realize how much power we hold together then we can start a political revolution.”
“Why should people care about Palestinians?”
“One American life is equal to one Palestinian life, one American life is equal to one Israeli life. We are all equal and that’s why we should care about Palestinian lives and Syrian lives and Honduran lives and Yemeni lives.”
“Have you been disappointed by the fact that that didn’t get into the Democratic party’s platform?”
“I am very disappointed that that didn’t get into the platform because the Democratic party is the part of the people and no party of the people funds and supports an incremental genocide,” she said.
I gave her a quick explanation of Mondoweiss, in case she didn’t know it. She did.
“Yeah, I love Mondoweiss.”
Muslim Americans like Khan have been the vanguard of the Sanders movement, and they’re not letting up just because Sanders has endorsed Clinton. They’re mad as hell, especially after the leaks of DNC emails showing a plot to undermine Sanders, and they’re not going to take it anymore.
“Why is it so important that Muslim Americans participate in American politics?”
“Because Muslim Americans are facing Islamophobia right now. I have had to deal with Islamophobia ever since I was a little kid. After 9/11, I was physically assaulted as a child in middle school and to be here fighting for our rights takes me back to those moments when I was marginalized,” she said.
“What do you think of Clinton demonizing of Iran?”
“It’s bureaucratic politics,” she said.
Then Khan jumped over the barricade and into the custody of the Philadelphia Police Department. Officers slapped plastic flex cuffs on her and lead her away.
The Philadelphia police held their ground against protesters stuck in the barricades in a sweaty crush of bodies, bikes and megaphones. The heat is its own character in this drama. It’s a mugginess that makes you start sweating as soon as you go outside. Police were reluctant to arrest the protesters, and swatted them away. It just made the crush of people against the barricade even more stifling. The National Lawyer’s Guild lawyer was frustrated by the police’s reluctance to play ball.
“Just let them over and bust ‘em!” he said.
The cops relented eventually, and the NLG lawyer started taking the names of people who wanted to put their names down.
Latest polls show Trump has about a 50/50 shot of winning against Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, something supporters of her rival Bernie Sanders said would happen, because people don’t trust Clinton and she’s also not a very good public speaker, not like Warren or Sanders or Trump or Sarah Silverman. Clinton’s not a racist, I don’t think, but she’s far short of anti-racist. Her policies, especially in foreign affairs, do discount the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, who are both prisoners of an Occupation Clinton endorses by not admitting its existence.
But when you’ve got money like Haim Saban’s in your corner, who needs to listen to these broke hippies with their “Hill no!” signs and drums and sweatiness.
Money only goes so far in politics, however, and the votes of these protesters can’t be bought, just like their signs say the Vermont senator isn’t for sale. And even though he has endorsed Clinton, he’s doing so as a matter of coercion. His progressive proposals would be dismissed out of sheer spite if he didn’t play ball.
Philadelphia was the cradle of representative government in the United States, and people here have taken to the streets in the finest Philly tradition of saying “fuck you” to anybody who would coerce citizens into doing something against their will. It’s a matter of principle, not expediency, because voting your conscience is the purpose of voting. Not voting just because some tells you how to vote.
They’ve come from all around the country, some protesting for the first time in lives and others as part of their life’s work. But just like the ancient Philadelphians, participation in public life means getting into arguments. Dat jawn’s dair sacrit right an’ dooty, nah mattir wud youse say, Dimmecrads. (In standard, not Philadelphia, English: “That (noun) is their sacred right and duty, no matter what you (plural) say, Democrats.”)
I actually overheard a sharply dressed guy wearing a Hillary pin late last night at The Original Pat’s King of Steaks quietly mutter a mocking imitation of the dulcet, unique Philly accent, after hearing it spoken by the hardworking, friendly guy taking his order. That besuited jabroni, the one wearing that pin, is what’s wrong with America. Another thing that’s wrong with America is the sign at Geno’s Steaks, across the street, saying “This is America. When Ordering, Speak English.” Keeping the sign around was the owner’s dying wish. I’m going to go eat there tonight, and I’ll ask them about it.