DNC steps off in Philadelphia with huge protests, high temps

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens during a town hall style campaign event, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (AP file)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Democratic National Convention got underway Monday in Philadelphia with much bigger demonstrations than the Republican convention and much higher temperatures as the region copes with an oppressive heat wave.

In one of the largest rallies planned for the day, a pro-Bernie Sanders group is expected to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects Camden, New Jersey, with Philadelphia.

The demonstrations, largely driven by Sanders supporters, have been peaceful so far.

At City Hall on Monday morning, a group of about 10 protesters was arranging boxes full of hundreds of spray bottles filled with water to hand out to Occupy DNC Convention marchers later in the day. They’ll also have tubs of ice and towels to help cool off protesters, said organizer Jenni Kelleher of Equality Coalition. Her group had backed the candidacy of Sanders but then turned to Green Party candidate Jill Stein after Sanders endorsed Clinton.

Kelleher, who marched Sunday, predicted that the heat won’t keep any protesters away.

“If they marched yesterday in that heat, they will be here today,” she said.

The heat wave is not going away anytime soon. It will hit a peak Monday with temperatures in the city possibly reaching 97 degrees but feeling like 105, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials said volunteers will be handing out water and the city will provide misting tents for demonstrators all week.

On Sunday, thousands of people marched along a main thoroughfare of the city to show their support for Sanders and their disdain for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

They chanted: “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

Although planned for months, the marches came as fractures appeared in the party that had been trying to display a show of unity in recent weeks. Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned Sunday as Democratic Party chairwoman over emails suggesting the DNC had played favorites for Clinton during the primary.

The Democrats had been trying to avoid the divide that was apparent in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention last week. But the hacked emails, published by WikiLeaks, further fired up Sanders supporters, who long accused the party of favoring Clinton despite officially being neutral.

Sanders had called for Wasserman Schultz’s resignation and said Sunday that she made the right decision for the party’s future by resigning.

Philadelphia police called Sunday’s protests peaceful and said they were pleased with how things were going.

Earlier in the day, thousands of clean-energy activists jammed a downtown street in their milelong march from City Hall to Independence Hall, near the Liberty Bell. They held anti-fracking and anti-pipeline signs, some with illustrations showing a train surrounded by a fireball and the words “No Exploding Trains.” Others held “Bernie or Bust” signs.

Some of the largest protests will start about 4 miles north of the Wells Fargo Center in south Philadelphia, where the convention is being held. Most protests during the RNC were concentrated in a tight, 1.7-square-mile zone downtown. A heavy police presence and fewer protesters than expected helped keep the calm. About two dozen arrests were made, and there were no significant injuries.

Sanders supporter Jeph Witters, 31, came to Philadelphia from Detroit, arriving Sunday after a 12-hour drive. He planned to march Monday from City Hall to the convention site.

“I came here to hopefully change some minds and hopefully overpower delegates,” he said. “I think we can do it.”

More than 5,000 delegates are among the 50,000 people set to attend the four-day convention, which is expected to culminate with Clinton being named the party’s official nominee for president.

 

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