PHILADELPHIA — A ragtag group of protesters made a last-ditch, quixotic and extremely unofficial effort to secure the Democratic nomination for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday.
Minutes before Hillary Clinton was officially nominated on the floor at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, a group of pro-Sanders protesters stood outside the security perimeter attempting to persuade delegates to change their minds. They stood pressed against the black metal barricades that encircle the convention and shouted inside at everyone they saw passing by.
Some of the protesters attempted to guilt-trip the delegates.
“How can you sleep at night?” asked a woman sitting in a beach chair next to the fences.
“Don’t call yourselves Americans!” shouted another woman.
Others resorted to threats.
“Your names are public!” a man screamed. “We’ll find you!”
One protester simply insulted the people inside the fence.
“You’re so old! Look at you!” they said.
It was unclear if the protesters could be heard inside the perimeter, as most of the people inside were at least 50 feet from the barricades. And a vast majority of the people who passed by the tent appeared to be law enforcement and convention workers rather than the delegates the protesters hoped to reach. Even if the shouts had been heard, it was nearly impossible to imagine delegates deciding to switch their votes after Clinton decisively won the nomination and earned Sanders’ endorsement.
Yet some of Sanders’ stalwarts who came to the convention were clearly unable to let go of his campaign even though the Vermont senator had conceded the race. The protesters along the barricades said they viewed Clinton as insufficiently progressive and claimed that the primary was rigged in her favor.
“My main point is we will not unite behind Hillary Clinton,” said Christina Donley, a 34-year-old restaurant worker who came to the convention from Michigan. “She is exactly against what everything that, as a nation, we want to grow towards.”
One man in a neon vest shouted at the fence that Clinton “works for the military weapons contractors.” The man, who declined to give his name, said he is a college student who lives in New Jersey.
“The way she bullied Bernie Sanders, she’s going to bully us the same way! Slander and deception!” he shouted.
Several of the protesters cited Democratic National Committee emails leaked to the public last weekend as proof that the primary results were illegitimate. Those messages showed DNC staffers talking about undermining Sanders’ campaign.
“The DNC stole democracy … now we have the proof,” said a woman named Fran. “Seems like nobody cares.”
Some of the protesters questioned the election results entirely. In spite of the results, they insisted it was clear that Sanders had won.
“Bernie has the majority of votes. He does. Hillary stole the election and it’s not OK,” Megan Lewis said.
Lewis, an 18-year-old from Reno, Nev., who described herself as a full-time activist, pointed to rumors that Sanders actually won in California to prove her point. (Those claims have been thoroughly debunked.) She also pointed to allegations of questionable practices by the Clinton campaign in her home state.
On a curb across the street from the fence, Sanders supporters lounged in the shade between sessions at the barricades. A small boy rode by on a scooter festooned with a balloon bearing the slogan “Stamp Big Money Out of Politics.” He wore a skirt and had a shirt tied around his neck like a cape. Many in the crowd wore tie-dyed clothes, and a man was selling colorful Sanders T-shirts for those who didn’t have them. He added his thoughts about Clinton to his pitch.
“Bernie buttons and tie-dyed shirts! F*** Hillary!” the man called out to the crowd.
Apart from one demonstrator who said they planned to write in Sanders no matter what, everyone who spoke to Yahoo News at the barricades said they planned to cast a ballot for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November. However, some still held out hope that Sanders could somehow win the nomination.
“I’m still for Bernie Sanders, but if he does not make it in, I will vote for Jill Stein,” said Donley.
None of the protesters were swayed by Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton.
“The only impact that that has on me is that Bernie planted his seed in all of us, and we are here to … do the job that he actually set us out to do, which is grow within the nation,” Donley explained.
Some liberals criticize the “Bernie or bust” voters by arguing that backing anyone other than Clinton would aid Republican nominee Donald Trump. The diehards at the barricades were not impressed by this argument.
A man named Cory James walked along the fences with a megaphone politely imploring people inside the perimeter not to vote for Clinton. He cited polls showing that Sanders would outperform Clinton in a matchup with Trump.
I met this exceedingly polite pro-Bernie protester outside the barricades. pic.twitter.com/AXPcfrAZhU
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) July 26, 2016
“Bernie Sanders does much better against Trump. In fact, Trump beats Hillary in those polling conglomerations, you know, they’re weighted and stuff,” James said. “I think it’d be awesome if you supported Sanders. Would you mind giving that a try?”
James, who said he is a student from Michigan, explained why he opted for a polite approach as he tried to persuade delegates to change their minds.
“I don’t want to be rude because these are the people that … hopefully will be voting for Bernie,” James said. “Also because I just don’t really like to be a rude person. Whenever I do something rude, I think about that at night and I stay awake forever.”
Fran, who said she was from New Jersey and declined to identify her last name or occupation, offered her own theory for why she doesn’t feel the need to vote for Clinton over Trump. She described both of them as being “owned by corporations” and posited that Trump might be “a plant” in the race.
“I think they’re both the same,” Fran said of Clinton and Trump. “Who knows if it’s even real?”