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July 26, 2016

Hundreds of upset Sanders supporters stage sit-in at DNC media center, say there was no betrayal

Lockdown at media tent continued for more than an hour after throng moved in

DNC2016 Bernie Sanders
201607262016_Sanders_MediaTent3_JS Joe Santoliquito/For PhillyVoice

A throng of Bernie Sanders supporters gathers in the media center at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.

It began as a trickle, a small gathering on the southeastern corner exit of the Wells Fargo Center. Then it started to build, slowly, and then gradually morphed into a crescendo. The human wave swelled and spilled over, right through the front glass doors of the media center Tuesday night, about 15 minutes after Hillary Clinton became the official presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention.

In what was a planned walk-out, more than 500 Bernie Sanders supporters marched in and began a sit-in, which lasted close to 90 minutes. Dozens of law enforcement officials, both inside and outside the center, locked down access during that time. 

As the proceedings from the Democratic National Convention played on the TVs on Tuesday night in the media tent, the protesters chanted "This is what democracy looks like" and carried banners. One read: "No Justice. No Peace."

Eventually the doors were opened and the throng exited – still grasping tightly to their candidate, but not feeling betrayed at all by Sanders' suspension of the convention rules to put his personal stamp on Clinton’s nomination.

Sanders’ supporters were not too pleased, and they acted out accordingly, forming and then running once again right into the maws of the media.

“I actually just found out about this and decided to join it,” said Norman Solomon, 65, a Sanders delegate from California who didn’t exactly fit in sartorially with his grey pinstripe suit against the t-shirt and shorts tableau of the Bernie advocates surrounding him. “I have my own reasons for wanting to leave the convention at that point [when Clinton was nominated]. The vote had taken place and Hillary Clinton had been nominated, and when Bernie Sanders went ahead and made his motion, for me I wanted to leave the convention.

Bob McGovern/PhillyVoice

A line of Pennsylvania state troopers stands outside the media center next to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia after hundreds of Bernie Sanders supporters marched into the media center. Law enforcement officers, including Philadelphia police, moved quickly to block entry to the tent.

“It took just a few seconds for me to realize that this was an organized effort to create a psychological pushback against the nomination of Hillary Clinton. We physically were in the convention hall and it was prearranged that we would be walking out," Solomon said during the sit-in. "As Bernie said the night of the California primary, the struggle continues. Political movements are like this huge garden. You have a lot of different elements to be healthy. I don’t want to leave the Democratic Party to the corporate forces represented by Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton wants that. She wants a clear field. Just because the rules are titled against us, it doesn’t mean we give up.”

Bill Caruso, a Sanders delegate from South Jersey, did not join in the rally, nor was he aware of any New Jersey delegate who did. But Caruso, who was proud of Sanders for backing Clinton, understands it may take time for Bernie's legion of supporters to throw their support behind her.

"I get the sense that in the world of the Bernie supporters, there are folks that came to this event ready to move on," Caruso said. "There were others, I count myself in this, that were ready to move but wanted to hear what we were doing to get there - and more concerned about how we're going to win in November and what our message is going to be.

"I think there's others that are not there yet. That's OK," he said. "This party has a job. We're behind right now. We're behind in this race. We've got to run like we're behind and we've got to go win votes."

Bob McGovern/PhillyVoice

Bernie Sanders supporters flood the media center next to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the site of the Democratic National Convention.

Sanders’ supporters have been rather disruptive since the Democratic National Convention opened in Philadelphia. On Monday afternoon, they formed a human blockade and shut down access areas where media and delegates could enter the Wells Fargo Center.

Delegates and voters like Solomon still refuse to look at Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump as a viable option.

Solomon, who said he considers himself an “activist,” went to the extreme in defining Trump’s huge constituency as “neofascist, nativist, xenophobic, misogynistic and racist.” Not only would a Trump presidency be a disaster, Solomon maintained, so would Trump’s choices of judges, administrative appointees to the cabinet and sub-cabinet that would empower “the worst elements of American society,” according to Solomon.

Solomon stressed that he, nor many of the voters within his contingent, would vote for Clinton.

“The Democratic Party has left an opening for someone like Trump, because there are two types of populism,” Solomon said. “There is progressive populism, which is what Bernie Sanders espouses, and then there’s right wing, scapegoating, most vulnerable kind populism, which also has a huge tradition that includes what Trump is about. The Democratic Party has blocked off progressive populism. Hillary Clinton has blocked that off, and it’s made a lot of people who are angry, frustrated victims of the corporate capitalist economy. Where do they go?”

Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Supporters of Bernie Sanders gather at the media center – one outside and two inside – at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. A boisterous sit-in prompted law enforcement officials to lock down the tent for more than an hour Monday night.

But Solomon didn’t feel betrayed by Sanders, the 74-year-old senator from Vermont.

“I don’t think Bernie abandoned us in the slightest,” Solomon said. “If Bernie wanted to have a ‘folding into unity,’ he wouldn’t have insisted on a roll call vote. Hillary Clinton didn’t want a roll call vote and see all of those delegates piled up against her. Bernie has acted with great integrity. Bernie, a heroic figure, did what he needed to do inside the conventional hall.

“We did what we had to do. We took a creative action to say we’re here to stay.”

Katrina Domnick, a 19-year-old delegate from Alaska, and one of the youngest at the convention, was indicative of the Sanders’ supporters. She’s young, adventurous and wants to be heard.

Wearing a blue silk jacket with the state of Alaska outlined in yellow on the back, Domnick agreed there was no betrayal. Domnick was smiling, though she made it clear she was angry.

“Bernie did what he had to do, I don’t feel betrayed by him,” Domnick said, as the media swirled around the room. “I feel like if he didn’t endorse Hillary, neither him nor his delegates would have been allowed to participate in this convention. I really do feel that way.

“I feel a lot more together in here [during this protest] than I did in the convention. I’m not going to put any Hillary supporter down, but it almost felt like there was a lot of anger in that arena aimed at us, because we knew there were a lot of people who didn’t agree with us. This is comforting. I’ll still vote for Bernie or [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein.

"I cannot vote for Hillary. I can’t trust her.”

PhillyVoice staffer John Kopp contributed to this report.