City: DNC protesters will be set up in FDR Park

City: DNC protesters will be set up in FDR Park
Charles Mostolller

With the Democratic National Convention being held in the birthplace of the First Amendment, it’s only natural that thousands of those coming to Philadelphia in July are coming to exercise their right of free speech.

Organizers with the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) said they welcome protesters exercising their rights.

“In contrast to our counterparts in Cleveland, the Democratic Party is a party of ideas,” said spokeswoman April Mellody, in a jab at the Republican National Convention, which has reportedly not yet approved a single protest application.

“We are confident that our long-term planning and unprecedented partnership with the Philadelphia Host Committee and the city of Philadelphia will ensure that the convention runs smoothly and that there are opportunities for every voice to be heard.”

For some protesters, a priority is being near the DNC and being seen by elected officials and delegates. The city is planning to designate a a part of FDR Park, near the Wells Fargo Center where the convention’s main stage will be located, as a protest area.

“The city is setting up water and other amenities for protestors in FDR Park,” said Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney.

Hitt previously acknowledged the value of allowing protesters room to voice their opinions.

“Demonstrations are an important part of every convention and we try to be as accommodating as possible to demonstrators,” she said.

Which groups will be protesting isn’t exactly clear, but thousands are already expected to join the protests.

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The city said that seven protest permit applications are currently pending.

There are five Bernie Sanders-related protest applications, including from Black Men for Bernie and the Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, as well as an art installation called the American Dream Project by two Brooklyn artists — an ice sculpture of the words “The American Dream” which will be allowed to melt — and environmentalist group Global Zero’s “Race to Zero” protest, which calls for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Black Lives Matter activists are expected to protest as well.

The first group to be granted a permit is the “March for a Clean Energy Revolution.” Participants will march from City Hall to Independence Mall on July 24, several miles from the main stage of the convention and a day before it formally begins.

“A lot of groups are wanting to confront the DNC more directly than ours,” said Sam Bernhardt, the senior Pennsylvania organizer for Food & Water Watch.

Bernhardt said he expects at least 5,000 people from around the country to participate.

“The reason we feel so strongly about bringing together this mobilization is because Philadelphia is really a city at a crossroads, as far as whether to go down the path of building out fossil fuel infrastructure in the city,” Bernhardt said, in reference to Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ proposed new oil refinery in the Navy Yard.

“Climate leadership means stopping fracking, it means a just and swift transition to 100 percent renewable energy, it means keep fossil fuels in the ground and it means stopping other forms of dirty energy.”

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As Metro reported Tuesday, anti-poverty activists from the Poor People’s Economic human Rights Campaign are planning to hold a march down South Broad Street on July 25 at 3 p.m., even though their request for a permit was denied. Organizer Cheri Honkala said thousands participated in a similar march at the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Why is it so urgent to get their message in front of delegates and politicians?

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Honkala said on Tuesday. “I would love to say in the 20 years that I’ve been doing housing issues that that’s not how it works, but it’s true.”

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