The chairman of the Democratic Convention for 2016 has a warning for Bernie Sanders supporters: behave yourselves. During a radio interview with John Catsimatidis, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell acknowledged the possibility of a pro-Bernie protest, but brushed it off.
The Hill reported Rendell’s statement, which chided Sanders supporters.
“I think it’s gonna be a great convention, but of course the key to it is the Sanders people. Bernie’s gonna have his name placed in nomination; we’re gonna have a roll call; there’s gonna be a demonstration in support of Bernie; he’s gonna lose the roll call. His supporters have to behave and not cause trouble. And I think they will, and I think Sen. Sanders will send them a strong message.”
Rendell’s warning is not sitting well with Sanders supporters. In fact, it seems to be stoking the fires of determination among them. On r/SandersForPresident, user u/Easier_Still echoed the sentiments of 18th century colonists who revolted against the British.
“America was not founded by people ‘behaving’ themselves.'”
In other words, the people are ready for the kind of political revolution Sanders has long called for, and they are not about to be silenced by a stern, paternalistic admonishment.
The late President John F. Kennedy even warned against a “let them eat cake” attitude.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Obviously, most Sanders supporters do not advocate for violence at the convention. That would be counterproductive of the movement’s quest to initiate fundamental changes within the political processes. Most of his supporters believe that real change should only come peacefully when people stand together and vote on creating new policies, procedures, and ensuring a fair and just political process.
And they know there is strength in numbers.
On Thursday, a Sanders supporter created the subreddit r/BernTheConvention for people who want to travel to Philadelphia and protest in support of Bernie. The goal is to get 1 million people in Philadelphia to protest the convention, to flex their collective muscle to try and force the Democratic Party to give Sanders a fair showing at the convention. They plan on urging their state superdelegates to vote with their constituents or face being voted out of office.
For example, Washington state overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders. On March 26, Sanders handily won 25 out of the 34 delegates allocated that day. Washington state takes a multi-step process to complete this allocation, and this week, the state released new data. In addition to the 25 already awarded, the state allocated an additional 49, bringing Sanders’ delegate count to 74 out of 101 available for the state.
Despite this commanding lead, the state’s superdelegates are refusing to reflect the will of the voters by backing Sanders.
In other words, the superdelegates for the Democratic party are acting in a most undemocratic manner. It has happened in several states where Sanders has won a majority of votes, with superdelegates adamantly refusing to reflect voters’ wishes.
Because of this, the Bern the Convention group is seeking to march in Philadelphia to convince members of the upper echelon of the party to cast their ballots for Sanders at the convention instead of Clinton. In just three days, the Reddit group has already gained nearly 4,000 subscribers, and a corresponding Facebook event shows nearly 9,000 interested and over 3,600 committed to the march. Another group scheduling a march shows nearly 5,000 people planning to attend the convention protest.
Convention chairman Rendell’s warning to Sanders supporters is disturbing, mostly due to his past as Attorney General of Philadelphia.
Nearly 31 years ago, on May 13, 1985, Rendell oversaw the investigation — or lack thereof — into the bombing and subsequent fire that killed 11 people, five of whom were children between the ages of seven and 13-years-old.
In a nutshell, the cause of the confrontation was the result of years of intensifying animosity between black liberation organization MOVE and Philadelphia police, who overreacted to neighbors’ complaints of noise, public use of profanity, and health hazards of the townhouse property. Former Mayor Wilson Goode offered a vague explanation regarding it.
“There was a decision to let the fire burn.”
As Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Rendell had worked behind the scenes to help ensure the members would be evicted, a move that belied his motives for not pursuing legal action against the officers who used brute force against the members and their children.
It was an episode of police brutality against members of the black community which ultimately affected those who were not even a part of it. More than 200 people were left homeless as a result of the ensuing fire.
Two weeks after the fire, he concluded that there was nothing to investigate. A separate grand jury dragged on for more than one year before coming to the same conclusion.
And while MOVE was not entirely innocent — its methods of protest were often confrontational and antagonistic — the Philadelphia police force reacted in such a way that is nothing short of murder, and Rendell essentially condoned it. It was the culmination of two antagonistic entities butting heads until the situation boiled over.
The most troubling aspect of this episode is not that the police bombed the house. It is that they allowed five children to die, and Philadelphia officials allowed more than 200 innocent neighbors to lose their homes because the city refused to put out the blaze.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has already appointed two Clinton supporters and Sanders critics to positions of power at the convention: former Mass. Rep. Barney Frank to the rules committee and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to the convention platform committee. In an open letter to Wasserman-Schultz, Sanders called both “aggressive attack surrogates on the campaign trail.”
Sanders supporters believe that unless they gather in large numbers at the convention, the superdelegates will do their best to usurp the will of their voters in states that largely supported him. This is one reason why they are mobilizing in as many ways as possible to force party leaders to follow their constituents.
Rendell’s involvement in oppressive tactics against self-proclaimed revolutionaries makes the Democratic National Convention look less like a democratic process and more like an authoritarian power grab.
[Photo by Gene Puskar/AP Images]