I’m in Philadelphia, my home, and the site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and I wanted to make this a post about some of the things that you might not know about Philly, or about the Convention if you aren’t here. But the events of the last few days can’t be ignored, so let’s start with what you probably already know.
For presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic National Convention opening in Philadelphia today, was supposed to be a celebration and a show of unity. After decades in the public eye and in public office, the former First Lady, United States Senator and Secretary of State is about to crash the penultimate glass ceiling as she becomes the first major-party woman candidate for President.
Clinton had survived a fractious primary season battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders, weathering controversy over the way she handled her emails as Secretary of State, and a Republican Convention where she was characterized as a criminal and even an admirer of the Devil. She had finally secured Sen. Sanders’ endorsement and pledge to support the campaign. Her choice of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate had garnered praise. Senator Sanders has endorsed her and pledged his support to help keep GOP nominee Donald Trump out of office.
Then Wikileaks dropped 20,000 emails purportedly from the Democratic National Committee’s servers. It was the second breach – an earlier leak disclosed opposition research on Trump. The emails lent credence to what Sanders and his supporters have been saying for months – that the DNC, led by long-time Clinton ally Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl) – had its thumb on the scales in favor of Clinton throughout the primaries. It also raised questions about cybersecurity and whether Russian president Vladimir Putin or his allies are trying to meddle in the election. Conspiracy theorists note that Trump has expressed admiration for Putin, and allegedly has business connections to close to the Russian strongman.
Whatever the truth, the revelations have rocked the DNC, and the party moved quickly Sunday to contain the damage. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is replacing Schultz as the Convention chair. Schultz is out as DNC chair when the Convention ends, to be replaced by vice chair Donna Brazile, another long-time Clinton ally.
Political observers will be watching Sanders’ speech tonight to the DNC see whether he will signal his supporters to put the latest controversy behind them and stick with Clinton. Getting his supporters on Clinton’s side was already going to be a challenge. Even before the latest revelations, the city disclosed that they expected as many as 50,000 demonstrators per day, with many Bernie-or-Busters among them. Indeed, they were out in force over the weekend, with two marches and rallies on Sunday that drew more than 1,000 people in near 100-degree heat: one for clean energy, and one for Sanders. Here are some pictures that I took from the first march.
A photo posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on Jul 25, 2016 at 6:09am PDT
There’s also this panoramic shot
A couple of final obervations:
1. One thing that visitors to downtown Philly won’t see this week in the numbers we residents are accustomed to, are homeless people: the city is spending extra money to provide beds and shelter from the heat.
2. While the main event is occurring at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, Convention activities are spread around the city. Here’s one handy guide.
3. To help Convention goers get around town more easily, the City is letting Uber drivers operate legally this week. This has incensed taxi drivers, who have been insisting that Uber doesn’t have to pay the same fees or submit to the same regulations as taxi companies. Taxi drivers plan to protest at 11 pm at the site of Uber’s corporate DNC reception tonight.
4. Interactions between the convention-goers, police and protestors have been polite, even cordial at times, as far as I have observed. Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richarrd Ross had stressed their desire to keep things peaceful, rejecting the more authoritarian stance taken by the city during the Republican Convention here in 2000. As this report from The Atlantic notes, the city, police and protest organizations were in contact before the Convention, and protestors have stressed discipline and cooperation. That said, the protestors have lawyers ready to respond to any hint of police excesses, and the police and firefighters have an emergency operations center at the ready.
The police presence is definitely heavy downtown, although nothing like last year’s visit from Pope Francis. At the march yesterday, protestors were polite and friendly. I saw a police officer taking a photo for a group of DNC staffers at the Convention Center. I saw another group of officers helping a lost child find his father. The city has set up watering stations and misting stations to help marchers survive the heat, and medics are on hand at the designated protest areas.
So, for all of the drama that is expected in the streets, at this point, any unexpected fireworks are likely to take place inside the Wells Fargo Center, as disgruntled Sanders supporters vent their anger at what they see as a rigged process. Some are even hoping for a contested convention. And this is what happened when Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke to Florida delegates at a breakfast this morning:
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) July 25, 2016
It’s going to be a busy day. Stay tuned.
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