City Hall was a hotbed for those protesting the Democratic National Convention and, even more so, the candidate the convention was officially nominating.
Starting as early as 10 a.m. on Monday — the first day of the convention — protesters showed up to voice their support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Throughout the day, there were protests and groups of people joining together to fight — quite vocally — for causes from Sanders’ nomination to legalizing marijuana. (Perhaps you saw the 51-foot joint being “passed” on the way to the Wells Fargo Center.)
Most groups traveled in the oppressive heat from City Hall to another popular spot for protesters to gather, Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.
By around 12:30 p.m., there was still a sizable crowd who hadn’t yet started to march to FDR Park. And there were Sanders supporters of all ages and stripes — from the young-faced boy with “Baby” era Justin Bieber hair sporting a onesie plastered with Sanders’ face all over it to the older gentleman with two braids in his hair wearing Sanders overalls.
For some Bernie supporters, getting to the convention was a cross-country journey.
Nyree Krikorian and DeCourcy Squire were standing together in the shade with signs supporting Sanders. They met at the People’s Convention on Sunday, July 23 after traveling from Seattle and Minneapolis, respectively.
While Squire recently arrived in the city, Krikorian came to Philadelphia a week early because she couldn’t stand the anticipation.
“I’m excited about making the super delegates hear our voices,” Krikorian said. “They need to hear our voices. And they need to know we are not bluffing. I want them to know that they still have a chance to save the party.”
Krikorian came to America from Baghdad when she was 15 years old in pursuit of education. Ten years after, she chose to become a U.S. citizen.
“It wasn’t something I had to do,” she said. “I had a green card. I could have worked, but I chose to become a U.S. citizen believing all along that my vote counted and that I really lived in a democracy. Thanks to Bernie, my eyes have been opened. For the first time, I now see the truth: that I never had true democracy, and this is an amazing example right now what DNC has done, what Hillary has done is steal the election and ignore our voices.”
“Bernie has won the popular vote, but Hillary rigged the election and now WikiLeaks is proving us right all along because whenever I went to Bernie’s rallies, 60,000 people. Hillary couldn’t even fill a high school gymnasium,” she said. “My hope is that today the DNC makes the right choice, a wise choice, to save themselves and save the party. If they don’t, we know what to do. We are united.”
Squire was sporting a shirt in support of Jill Stein, the Jewish presidential candidate for the Green Party — Stein is her Plan B in November.
She was out in support of Sanders, whom she called “the kind of candidate that comes along once in a lifetime,” particularly because of his policies and the success she thinks he’d have as president.
“It’s very important for us to speak out and show that there is so much energy for Bernie and change, progressive change,” she said. “If we want to defeat Trump, we have to listen to what the people really need and want, and the DNC is going to lose to Trump by choosing a candidate who can’t win against Trump. Bernie will not only win against Trump, but our country will be better.”
There were so many Sanders supporters around the city, you might have forgotten who the convention was actually nominating. That’s not to say, however, there weren’t any Hillary Clinton supporters in the crowd. They just seemed few and far between.
Decked out in a royal blue blazer with red and white stripes and a matching hat and bowtie (there was more to the costume, but the heat made him change his mind, he said), David Manzo stood at City Hall with a tray of toys.
His wife started making jack-in-the-box toys of President Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election from her company, Pop Art Creations. So, needless to say, this election and the convention provided a great reason to bring them back, and Manzo was there to show them off.
“We got an offer from a company to make these in bulk, and so we made them in 2008,” he said, “and by the time we got the Hillarys in stock, she was out of the race. So then we were asked to do the Barack, so we quickly got the Barack done, and we sold about half of them when the election was done and over. So we’ve got about 300 Hillarys left and just wanted to see if I could get rid of them. I got her to sign one in 2008, so they’re going to be very collectible.”
Manzo traveled from San Jose, Calif. for the convention. In a sea of Sanders supporters, Manzo — a Hillary supporter at a Bernie rally — was pretty much a lone wolf.
“Everybody in this place has asked me what is the meaning, and I say it’s a toy. It’s just a toy. Eighty percent of the Bernie supporters have been really nice, and about 20 percent have been very mean.”
A good sport, he posed with the toys while people took pictures of them, but he wanted people to keep in mind there is no hidden message.
“It’s just a toy. That’s all it is,” he said with a laugh. “There’s no subliminal meaning here.”
Around the Wells Fargo Center on Monday around 3 p.m. — just before the official start time of the convention — there were still masses of people gathered by the Septa Broad Street Line entrance shouting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
Inside, there were several advocacy groups supporting their own causes.
Meantime, at a pro-Palestinian protest outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, participants wore T-shirts saying “Palestinians should be free.” They were mixed in with people wearing Sanders T-shirts.
The row of exhibiting organizations at the convention center included the Marijuana Policy Project and a Democratic pro-life group, as well as JStreet, but there was no AIPAC table.
The convention and protests even brought out a few celebrities.
Jerry Springer was spotted outside the kosher grill at the Wells Fargo Center. Meanwhile, at FDR Park, actresses and outspoken Sanders supporters Shailene Woodley and Rosario Dawson gathered to film a video for Sanders.
Marissa Stern is a reporter at the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.