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So Far, Protest Crowds At The Democratic Convention Are Dwarfing Those In Cleveland

We’ll be reporting from Philadelphia all week and live-blogging each night. Check out all our dispatches from the Democratic convention here.

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.

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Hello Philly.

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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 more large cities along the East Coast.

We’ll be keeping our eye on how the protests develop and asking protesters why they decided on Philadelphia instead of Cleveland. Many Sanders supporters I’ve spoken with have said they’re simply here to have their voices heard. Earlier this afternoon, some of them did — when they jeered Sanders himself for endorsing Clinton and Tim Kaine, her running mate. Polling — and the conversations I’ve had — suggest the “Bernie or bust” camp is still a small portion of Sanders voters.

 

And it’ll be interesting to see the police response. Cleveland saw few protesters, no doubt, but also an overwhelming police presence. Any time a protest showed any hint of getting out of hand, the police descended en masse to occupy the space. So far, Philadelphia has felt a little less militarized — more crowd control and less riot control.


VIDEO: What do hard-core Sanders supporters want?

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.

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