At a July 16 gathering at the Mammal Gallery in downtown Atlanta, roughly 50 Bernie delegates, alternates, and supporters discussed plans to assert Bernie’s platform at the convention, protest a rigged primary process, and bring the momentum of Bernie’s political revolution home to local and state campaigns, both electoral and issue-oriented. Bernie alternate Khalid Kamau shared his plans for a CWA-funded t-shirt initiative (see photo), highlighting four areas of the Democratic platform where strategic visibility on the convention floor would be crucial, especially considering the expected suppression of Bernie delegates and confiscation of unapproved signs — which turned out to be even more intense, violently enforced, and broadly coordinated than anticipated.
One Metro Atlanta DSA member (who authored this blog post) also announced plans to caravan to Philadelphia with at least a dozen other Atlantans for the purpose of expressing dissatisfaction and outrage towards the anti-democratic nomination process that gave general election voters the two least popular options in decades, both largely in opposition to the popular social and economic justice platform advanced by Bernie Sanders.
Bernie’s delegation from Atlanta, reportedly one of the most militantly irreverent groups in attendance, shared first-hand accounts of harassment, dismissal, and even physical abuse towards Bernie delegates from Georgia and elsewhere around the country. DNC security threatened to revoke the credentials of anyone who might dispel the illusion of party unity. One member of the Georgia delegation, expressing grief at an emotional moment, was struck by a laughing Clinton delegate’s cane. In one widely-circulated video, Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter, his sons, and Clinton delegate Will Fowlkes are seen deliberately blocking several Bernie delegates with large signs (https://www.facebook.com/nusaibabaker/videos/10209917493796594/). One Atlanta delegate confirmed that Clinton delegates were given written instructions to drown out any dissenting issue-oriented chants (for a living wage or against the TPP, for instance) with Hillary-oriented chants.
Aside from the literal assaults against Bernie delegates, the most shockingly repulsive moment from the DNC was when the Clinton-aligned crowds silenced the Bernie delegates’ righteous cries to end war (“NO MORE WAR!”) with an ultra-nationalist response (“USA! USA!”). Whether the country chooses Trump or Clinton, white nationalist ideology and war are the way forward, apparently. Around the globe, fascism is on the rise, and anyone who is complicit in this should be ashamed.
Instead of joining the debate on how great America already is or previously was, we should stand with survivors of US violence — detainees in prisons and ICE facilities, people terrorized by drone strikes — and adopt a distinctly anti-nationalist outlook. The US is the most feared country in the world by a large margin. When you wave its flag, what does that look like to its victims?
While Sanders delegates did their best to uplift their voices and platform inside the Wells Fargo Center, other Atlantans took action beyond the many layers and miles of fencing encircling the convention. Most of the group occupied the nearby FDR Park overnight, spending six nearly-sleepless, malnourished, sun-burnt days on the streets of Philly. They joined thousands of other protesters to vote with their feet and bring democracy to Broad Street, shutting down this major road several times per day during marches centered on specific struggles, such as environmental and racial justice, Bernie’s platform, third-party efforts, or general grievances against Clinton and the DNC.
Some of the more lively actions were coordinated through Democracy Spring. Although they did not align with any particular candidate, these actions demanded the DNC adopt several pro-democracy reforms: abolish superdelegates, reverse Citizens United, support publicly financed elections, restore the Voting Rights Act, and otherwise get money out of politics, embracing the principle of one person, one vote. Several Atlanta activists joined the Democracy Spring march, and one participated in the nonviolent direct actions, scaling the fence around the Wells Fargo Center, and later infiltrating the second security checkpoint, blocking delegates’ access to the convention. Atlanta activists were pleased to hear that the second action coincided with a speech by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. These actions resulted in roughly 100 citations by Philadelphia police.
Despite the media’s collaboration in staging a carefully-choreographed victory spectacle for the billionaire class, the dissenters got their message across, inside and outside the secure zone: the political revolution continues. And the alternative is unthinkable: could you imagine if the DNC threw a rigged, anti-democratic coronation for a human rights violator, and no one showed up in dissent? If no one demonstrated a source of legitimate people power exists outside of the two-party political system?