PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators are taking to Philadelphia’s sweltering streets Sunday, cheering, chanting and beating drums in the first major protests ahead of the Democratic National Convention, as the city wilts during a heat wave.
Throngs of Bernie Sanders supporters marched down a main thoroughfare to show their support of him and disdain for Hillary Clinton ahead of the convention.
Chanting “Hell No, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the marchers headed from City Hall down Broad Street, the main north-south artery that leads from the city center to the convention site about 4 miles away.
Many carried Sanders signs, and a huge Bernie Sanders puppet was also a part of the festivities.
Police officers rode bicycles along each side of the march and the thousands of protesters cooled off in city fire hydrants that were opened along the road.
The heat wave that descended on the city was showing no mercy, with temperatures reaching the high 90s and the city under an “excessive heat” warning by the National Weather Service. It’s expected to peak Monday, the convention’s first day, with temperatures possibly hitting 100 degrees.
Earlier Sunday, thousands of clean energy activists jammed a downtown street in their mile-long march from City Hall to Independence Mall, near the Liberty Bell. They held anti-fracking and anti-pipeline signs, some with illustrations like a train surrounded by a fireball and the words “No Exploding Trains.” Others held “Bernie or Bust” signs.
Sam Miller, 82, traveled from Erie, Pennsylvania, to join the march that stretched several blocks and across a wide street as temperatures in the city soared into the mid-90s. He said he was inspired because “fracking is invading Mother Earth.”
Like in Cleveland, police were using bicycles as barricades along the streets, and volunteers were handing out water to marchers. Shoppers came out of stores to watch the march like a parade.
Chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” were met by counter echoes of “Hillary! Hillary!”
Crowds braving the weather could take advantage of “misting tents” and free water, compliments of the city.
Mayor Jim Kenney warned people to limit time outdoors and said demonstrations would be put on hold in the event of thunderstorms.
Some of the largest protests and demonstrations start about 4 miles north of the arena where the convention is being held. In Cleveland last week, most protests during the Republican National Convention were concentrated in a tight, 1.7-square mile zone downtown. A heavy police presence and fewer than expected protesters helped keep the calm. There were only about two dozen arrests and no significant injuries.
Philadelphia’s protests come as Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned under pressure as Democratic Party chairwoman, a stunning leadership shakeup as party officials gather in Philadelphia to nominate Clinton.
Wasserman Schultz’s announcement Sunday follows a firestorm over hacked emails suggesting the Democratic National Committee favored Clinton during the primary, despite pledging neutrality. The leaked emails prompted primary runner-up Sanders to call for Wasserman Schultz’s immediate resignation.
More than 5,000 delegates are among the 50,000 people set to attend the gathering at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, which is expected to culminate with Clinton being named the party’s official nominee for president.
The former secretary of state and first lady has named Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.