This article titled “Bernie Sanders supporters stage sit-in to protest Clinton nomination at DNC” was written by Scott Bixby and Adam Gabbatt in Philadelphia, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 27th July 2016 01.27 UTC
Scores of disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters stormed the media center at the Democratic national convention on Tuesday night after Hillary Clinton officially clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, staging a short-lived sit-in as law enforcement officials and hundreds of members of the press looked on.
The protest began a few minutes after Sanders called on the convention to nominate Clinton by acclamation, with dissatisfied supporters of the runner-up candidate leaving Wells Fargo Arena in droves. The exits of the arena are less than 100 feet from the entry to the media tents, and the protesters entered the filing center before law enforcement could block entry to the tents.
Many of the protesters had taken a symbolic vow of silence ahead of the action, symbolizing what they felt was the Democratic National Committee’s conspiracy of “silencing” pro-Sanders supporters. After a few minutes of yes-no questions, protester Christopher VanderStouwe said “dozens” of social media groups had planned the protest over the previous days, in the hopes that Sanders-supporting delegates would be able to air their grievances with the DNC.
“We have, like, messengers that are supposed to be being interviewed and the rest of us are silenced,” VanderStouwe said, but “some people decided to speak on their own anyway.”
It was several minutes after the initial entrance of protesters until the pounding of state troopers could be heard outside stalls reserved for members of the press, by which time protesters had taken up shop in the B Tent, the central tent home to foreign press, USA Today, the Huffington Post and other outlets covering the convention.
Multiple uniformed state patrol officers declined repeated requests for comments regarding whether there had been a plan in place for such a protest. Jeffrey Rabinovitch, a lieutenant with the Philadelphia police department, said “the plan is in progress”.
Speaking with the Guardian, Philadelphia police captain Deborah Francis downplayed the protesters’ presence.
“They’re in the media tent – you guys are happy these guys are here,” Francis said. “They are a peaceful group, just exercising their first amendment rights peacefully. If y’all would stop taking pictures, they’d go away.”
Police lined up in front of the entrance to the media center, apparently to prevent more Sanders supporters from entering, but an officer said delegates who were part of the sit-in were free to leave through a side exit.
There was disagreement regarding the size of the group: a Philadelphia police department source who declined to have his rank or name published said he estimated the protesters to number between 100 and 150 people, while Pujarinu Datta, a delegate from Columbus, Ohio, said there were “probably about 200” delegates taking part in the action. Datta claimed “at least half” of the more than 1,300 Sanders delegates had wanted to take part, but said many had been “shut out” of the media center after the sit-in had begun.
VanderStouwe, who voted for Sanders in the Idaho caucus and was slow to break his vow of silence, shrugged when asked whether he would cast a vote for Clinton in the general election and flipped his hands back and forth when asked whether he thought that Sanders ever had a chance at winning the nomination. A lecturer in linguistics, the first audible answer from VanderStouwe came when asked if he would consider voting for Donald Trump: “No.”
“The purpose of this was to show how we’ve been silenced, and to get he media coverage that the DNC refuses to give us,” VanderStouwe said. “When the platform when through, when the rules went through, there was no ability for anyone to make motions, there was no – they just sort of rushed right through it and didn’t let anyone do anything else. So it became really evident very quickly that Bernie supporters would not have a voice at the convention.”
When told that Sanders has so far spoken twice at the convention, including in the final endorsement of Clinton that resulted in the vote by acclamation, VanderStouwe implied that the movement had grown bigger than Sanders himself.
“We’re also a revolution, and we’re not only guided by a single individual. He’s largely been [a vessel] for many of us,” VanderStouwe said. “There is a varying level of excitement for him that may or may not remain. Some people are angry, some people are less angry, some people feel like he was forced into it. And so there’s a lot of uncertainty with it, because nobody knows exactly what his motives were” for endorsing Clinton.
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