PHILADELPHIA — At a pro-Bernie Sanders rally in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, a speaker — barking into a megaphone while standing on top of a repurposed tour bus — proclaimed that 150,000 protesters would descend on the Democratic National Convention this week. Then he sang a song.
City officials are more conservative, saying they expect closer to 50,000 protesters. But even Sunday’s demonstrations dwarfed the crowds I saw at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. And as the Democratic convention gets going, we can expect protests to get bigger and bigger. Several pro-Sanders rallies were scheduled for this afternoon, including a big march to the Wells Fargo Center from downtown, a few miles away. Here’s a list of expected protests.
The turnout in Philadelphia so far is somewhat surprising to me. Cleveland was notable for the lack of protests and arrests. The protests in Philly cover a range of issues, not just support for Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Perhaps progressive protesters faced with a choice — rail against a GOP nominee who seems to appeal to authoritarian impulses or an insider-driven DNC — chose the latter.
It’s also worth noting that the area has a deep history of political activism — think Quakers, Vietnam-era FBI office break-ins, the MOVE bombing and, you know, the American Revolution. Or perhaps Philadelphia is simply more convenient to …