July 25, 2016
Around 5 p.m. Monday, in the bubbling cauldron surrounding the Wells Fargo Center on Monday afternoon, the Democratic National Convention was about to kick off. For those out in the sun-baked parking lots around the arena, if there wasn’t a sweat blot somewhere on your shirt, you had no sweat glands.
The heat didn’t help the tension.
So all the hulking Philadelphia police sergeant could do was shrug his shoulders. He was trying to be helpful to the older woman with the media credential dangling from her neck. She was trying to gain access to the arena for the DNC proceedings.
But a thick horde of Bernie Sanders supporters – sitting, standing, chanting – formed a human blockade, jeering the few people able to skirt by. Police and Secret Service officers in black vests had no answer for it, but showed considerable patience.
Bernie supporters blocked the media and delegate passageways at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue for at least an hour. They stopped a SEPTA bus. If their plan was to be disruptive, they succeeded.
“Be patient, they’ll thin out,” the sergeant said to the woman and the frustrated reporter standing next to her who had already been through the entangled gauntlet of legs, arms and squatting Sanders supporters.
“I need to get in there, I have an editor waiting for me,” the woman tried explaining to the police officer.
He shrugged again.
Meanwhile, the Sanders contingent began chanting.
"This is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!”
What began as a group of a few hundred supporters earlier in the day had swelled to a mob of around 1,000, which filled the intersection, chanting and pleading their cause to anyone willing to listen.
The media interviewed a number of protesters, but their purpose, it seemed, was more to disrupt the operation than protest. Police made a few arrests. One protester, a white male in a white t-shirt who looked to be in his mid-20s, was led off in handcuffs as fellow supporters piled up against the gates cheered. He had apparently tried to jump a security fence into a restricted area and was immediately subdued by police.
Police said 54 protesters (32 males and 22 females) were detained and issued citations for disorderly conduct carrying a $50 fine. They were released without further penalty.
“Why are you doing this?” an older man, clearly not connected to what was happening, asked one of the Sanders demonstrators.
“Because we want to be heard and this is our last chance,” the protester replied. “If you can’t get where you supposed to go — good. I think they’ll listen to us now.”