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Aug 16, 16

Feel the BURN: A DNC Reportback

Submitted to It’s Going Down

The protests of the Democratic National Convention came and went leaving many behind, such as myself, confused and bewildered. Most of the confrontations occurred between various sects of the dying left and liberal Bernie supporters seeking to contain or co-opt rage. There were some attempts at direct action and militancy but the entire terrain was uncertain and at times hostile toward any action outside of very controlling notions of “non-violent protest.”

A few instances were somewhat interesting in terms of what is/not possible in the streets during these events given the social forces participating and directing political struggle towards their ends.

Anarchists-at-DNC-Protest-640x480On Tuesday the Black Resistance March, organized by the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, went down Broad St starting at Diamond. Early on a couple (very obvious) undercovers were kicked out of the rally along with a camera operator. One thing in the past that REAL has shouted about, besides pigs, are reporters. The march was led by a few trucks filled with water and members of REAL Justice and Worker’s World Party (WWP) on megaphones. Early on in the march, things got tense with the largely white Bernie supporters who showed up, when they were asked to fall back behind the banners and in general not march in front of the contingent of black protesters holding those banners. Some cute banners, one reading FUCK 12 END POLICE FOREVER! and another Stop Killing Black People, were scattered through the march. Overall, it was a confused mix of fuck cop signs and pro-Bernie signs.

The march reached City Hall and merged with an even larger contingent of Bernie supporters and pot-smoking hippies. There people milled about for what must have been an hour around City Hall. There seemed to be some disagreement yet again about who would lead. A split group marched ahead and reached the Wells Fargo center, where four people were arrested around 8:30. After some time the WWP march started again from city hall with the trucks in front. This began the plodding “March Against the DNC” with so many stops along the way, to keep the march together both for the purposes of leadership and for the cops to maintain a defined perimeter.

As the march moved south it thinned out and the mood got more tense as it got dark. Still the cops did nothing as an Israeli and American flag were burned near Broad and Oregon on Tuesday for the Black resistance march. But even then self-appointed “peacekeepers,” some of whom wore placards that read “#BeLikeBernie I DO NOT support violence of any kind,” stepped in to try and kill the fun. I heard one person shout that this is not what we’re here for. Who is we?

Another flag was burned in front of the fence to the Wells Fargo center with more complaints from pacifists. The march dispersed from there, many going into the encampment in FDR Park. Two major groups were there occupying space, the Rainbow Family of Light folks and a middle-class Bernie encampment-suburb. There was a stage and a set of screens, which were playing some cartoon. A friend told me it felt like a Jimmy Buffet concert, and it was basically that.

On Wednesday another flag was burned (noticing a theme?) but this time a pacifist got burned trying to stomp out a puddle of lighter fluid! (Fire don’t give a fuck bout you.)  The energy was more intense that night with two actions against the fence, one where Democracy Spring activists tried to pull down the fence. Some were arrested. After that an unaffiliated group of masked demonstrators came at the fence again, this time with bolt cutters. Seven people were arrested in total as far as we know.

Thursday was the last day of the convention and energy felt low. That night, there was a rally again in front of the fence and there was talk of Democracy Spring activists disrupting HRC’s speech on the inside. Another group outside the fence, the DNC Action Committee, held a sign that read “we are pissed and we are peaceful.” I agreed with half of that. The banner holders seemed confused when some voiced disagreement with that statement. Later the same group held a “mock trial” of HRC that was so painful to watch.

Demonstrators burn a flag during a protest in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during the second day of the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Socialist Alternative was also there on megaphones declaring themselves to be the official chant leaders and trying to get people to literally repeat after them. The reason for this co-optation became clear when later a rumor spread throughout the crowd that there were delegates leaving away from where everyone was standing; the action turned out to be a Socialist Alternative rally with some sad Bernie delegates. Food Not Bombs handed out food and masks. This resulted in the image of a 20-something college bro in a tie-dye Bernie t-shirt wearing a black mask and eating a hummus sandwich listening to the live-streamed speeches.

That final image is stuck in my brain as what the entire week felt like: a horrifying simulacrum of modern protest culture, weed and apparently, an Alpaca.

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