PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bernie Sanders loyalists signaled their intent to leave the Democratic Party and protested inside and outside its national convention site after Hillary Clinton on Tuesday won its presidential nomination.
“We all have this unrealistic dream that democracy is alive in America,” said Debra Dilks, of Boonville, Missouri, who spoke as a protest broke up near Philadelphia’s City Hall and wasn’t sure she’ll vote in November. “Hillary didn’t get the nomination. The nomination was stolen.”
Thousands of activists have taken to the streets during the Democratic National Convention this week to voice support for Sanders, a liberal Vermont U.S. senator, and his progressive agenda.
Moments after Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party, a large group of Sanders delegates exited the convention site to hold a sit-in inside a media tent. Some had their mouths taped shut. A few spontaneously sang “this land is our land,” and a banner read “we the people.” They said they were holding a peaceful protest to complain about being shut out by the Democratic Party.
“This was not a convention. This was a four-day Hillary party. And we weren’t welcome,” said Liz Maratea, a New Jersey delegate at the media tent protest. “We were treated like lepers.”
Unmoved by Sanders’ plea for party unity, the Bernie or Bust protesters walked miles in the stifling heat again Tuesday to make their case for him.
They held a midday rally at City Hall, then made their way down Broad Street to the convention site. By early evening, a large crowd had formed outside the subway station closest to the arena.
“I think people were hoping we could sway the delegates and show that there really is a movement here,” said Alexis Holmes, a school janitor from Carbondale, Illinois, who has been protesting in the city since Sunday.
The crowd consisted of an assortment of protesters espousing a variety of causes, but mostly Sanders supporters and other Clinton foes on the left. College student Cory James said he expects the Democratic Party to split over the nomination.
“I suspect we are witnessing an event that will fundamentally change American politics,” said James, of Flint, Michigan.
Earlier in the day, participants at the rally charged that Sanders was cheated out of the nomination by Clinton, and they said they weren’t swayed by his Monday plea to his supporters to fall in line behind Clinton for the good of the country.
“He persuaded no one to vote for Hillary,” said Greg Gregg, a retired nurse from Salem, Oregon, who intends to cast his ballot in November for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
For a brief period Tuesday afternoon, pro-Sanders demonstrators who set out for the convention site by subway were forced by police to get off one stop short of their destination. In a crowd control measure also used the night before, only passengers with media or convention credentials were allowed to ride all the way to the Wells Fargo Center.
The longstanding bitterness between Sanders’ supporters and Clinton’s seemed to grow worse over the past few days after a trove of hacked emails showed that officials at the Democratic National Committee played favorites during the primaries and worked to undermine Sanders’ campaign.
Black Men for Bernie founder Bruce Carter said Monday’s speeches from Sanders and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn’t persuade him to support Clinton.
“They really agitate people more every time they stand up and do the Hillary Clinton hoo-rah hoo-rah,” he said.
Carter, a Dallas resident, said he doesn’t fear a Republican Donald Trump presidency.
With temperatures climbing again toward the mid-90s, Chris Scully, an engineer from Troy, New York, held a “Jill Before Hill” sign outside City Hall and said he opposes Clinton because of her war record as U.S. secretary of state.
As Scully spoke, a passer-by called out: “That’s a vote for Trump!”
In a separate protest, against police brutality and racial injustice, about 500 people marched down Broad Street to City Hall. Protest leader Erica Mines told the crowd it was an “anti-police rally” and a “black and brown resistance march” and instructed all white people to move to the back.
March participant Tiara Willis, of Philadelphia, said she subscribes to the slogan “I’m with her … I guess.” She said she won’t back Trump and called Clinton “the lesser of two evils.”
Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this story.