With the start of the Democratic National Convention, all sorts of visitors descended on Philadelphia.
With the start of the Democratic National Convention on July 25, all sorts of visitors descended on Philadelphia, particularly in Center City.
Protesters, almost all of them carrying some kind of Bernie Sanders paraphernalia, gathered in the City Hall courtyard and spilled out into Dilworth Park, where kids frolicked in the fountains. Assorted other politicos, oddballs and locals wandered around town, too.
Let’s catch up with a few of them.
Many locals have taken advantage of the tourists and DNC delegates by creating business opportunities.
Walking the streets was Christopher Thorn, one of several guys who runs a Philly tech start-up called Habitat.
“It’s like a Grubhub for universities,” said Thorn, who is able to promote his business at the same time that he sells political buttons that are critical of Hillary and supportive of Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Thorn admitted he’s not very political himself and is only doing this because, “like any startup, we’re cash-poor.” The business operates out of Drexel, Penn and Temple. And the DNC.
The convention veteran
Trudy Mason and her entourage jostled for seats on the Broad Street subway on the way to the Wells Fargo Center. Mason, who is Jewish, is the vice chair of the New York State Democratic committee. This is her 12th DNC.
“The first one was in 1964 in Atlantic City after JFK was assassinated,” she said. “I was also in Chicago for 1968, which is what this year reminds me of. The same kinds of issues, violence in the streets …”
She worried that the Sanders people will be like the Gene McCarthy people, she said, remembering something her friend told her back then: They vote with their feet and their feet are walking away from the voting booth.
“If they stay home, it’s like casting a vote for Trump,” she said.
A day earlier, Mason and her fellow committee members met for five hours. As a personal friend of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who resigned as chair of the Democratic National Committee, she’s distressed by the news of “what happened to her. Debbie has always been a leader in the Jewish community,” she said.
Though she feels the email scandal is a bit overblown — “enough with the emails!” she said — she also remembered the sign that Harry Truman had on his desk in the Oval Office: The buck stops here.
“I don’t believe she was not being impartial,” she said, but she understood that she has to be held accountable for her staff.
The put-out local
Philadelphia resident Alex Prombaum was not thrilled with the crowds of Bernie supporters he saw at City Hall as he walked by in his velvet yarmulke.
“They’re bringing division,” he said of the protesters. “We’re going to end up with Trump this way, and Trump is not good for the Jews. And I’ve voted Republican in the past.”
Prombaum also noted, only half-jokingly, that he couldn’t get to his daily mincha through the throng of Bernie people.
The guy attracting attention
Ivan DelSol from Cottage Grove, Ore., attracted dozens of photographers with his getup, which included a huge Bernie head and hands above his body. Wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, the Jewish DelSol said he’s carting this heavy costume around because “Bernie is the most hopeful candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Then he scurried to get his photo taken with controversial professor Cornel West, whose arrival in the City Hall courtyard was greeted like that of a rock star.
The Green Party guy
George Paz Martin came to Philadelphia from Milwaukee on behalf of Jill Stein, who spoke at the FDR Skatepark on the first day of the convention. Martin sat in the sweltering heat in the City Hall courtyard, wearing Stein buttons on his shirt and hat.
A member of the Green Party for 15 years, Martin — a former co-chair of United for Peace and Justice and a fellow of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking — said he supports Stein because of her “holistic outlook toward our government.” As a medical practitioner, Martin said, “she provides context and answers to our problems.”
Martin is not a fan of the current state of affairs when it comes to electoral politics.
“We’ve been voting out of fear for 15 to 20 years now, and things have been getting worse, whether it’s a Republican or Democrat in office. Congress has been stuck on stupid for a long time.”
The former non-governmental organization delegate to the United Nations and recipient of numerous awards for his international peace work doesn’t believe the two major parties are capable of fixing things.
“We have these huge campaigns,” he said, that spend so much money, but “they don’t represent the American public.”
He recently wrote an article countering what he calls the myth of the spoiler effect.
“It’s a lie,” he said. “Waiting until a third party can win before you support them is like waiting for all the streetlights to turn green before you leave your driveway. You’ll be in the same place forever.”
Artist Qori Moorehawl is from Ohio but has lived in Philadelphia for six years. On the convention’s first day, she was painting among protestors and tourists in Center City — images of trees and flags.
“I spent last winter in Taiwan,” said Moorehawl, “and I came back during the primary. I thought, ‘This is what I left.’”
Afraid for her country, Moorehawl, who wears a peace symbol earring in one ear, said she paints trees to represent hope and growth: “The flags are my take on an iconic American motif.”
She said that painting publicly has brought her into contact with a lot of interesting people who are in town for the DNC. She’s impressed by law enforcement, so far, because they’re all “being really chill.” She’s heard from some people who came to the DNC from New York that they’re surprised by how easygoing police officers are here. She’s pleased with the way the city is handling things so far.
The Bernie fans
Outside the Wells Fargo Center, the sound of helicopters above was unending on July 25, at least until the torrential rain came. From City Hall, on Septa’s Broad Street Line, along the fences all the way to the entrance of the Wells Fargo Center, there were throngs of Bernie Sanders supporters, chanting his name, hoisting signs above their heads, standing for hours.
There wasn’t a single sign or button or cheer in Hillary’s name until you got inside the Wells Fargo Center, where the official DNC merch was on sale. On the floor of the convention, there were more Bernie supporters, many of them wearing green felt hats (Robin Hood). One man had lights on the back of his shirt that spelled out FEEL THE BERN like Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman. Delegates were decked out in sequins, glittery cowboy hats and American flag wear.
The crowd was incredibly diverse in age and race. In the hallways, there were charging stations for cell phones in between the concession stands. The crowds were so thick, it’s almost impossible to walk: It’s like being stuck in traffic.