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Berning with anger, protesters take to Philly streets ahead of Dem convention

PHILADELPHIA — It may be Hillary Clinton's Democratic convention, but on a blistering day supporters of Bernie Sanders hit the streets with hot anger.

Mad at the Democratic establishment and an electoral process many protesters called "rigged," thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Sunday in support of fighting climate change, free trade and the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee.

"I am angry, I'm angry at the Democratic establishment," said Corey Collier, an organizer for activist umbrella organization Philly.FYI. The motivation for the march, he said, was "watching democracy be blatantly undermined in our faces."

The demonstration was part of a full slate of events that kicked off in Philadelphia on Sunday, shadowing the official Democratic Convention a day ahead of its formal start.

Billy Taylor, executive director of Philly.FYI, said he organized the day's events to return power to the people. "The DNC is dead to me, to be honest," Taylor said. "This isn't about unity. It's about giving the power back to the people."

Other protesters were more defiant about Clinton. "This movement that will not fall in line with Hillary Clinton is real," Bruce Carter, founder of Black Men for Bernie, told the crowd to cheers.

Indeed, anti-establishment sentiment ran deep at the rally. When Philly.FYI organizer Justis Vining was informed by CNBC that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had stepped down as chair of the Democratic National Committee in the middle of the march, he said he felt "pure joy."

When the news was relayed to protest leaders atop a rolling van, and then to the crowd, it was met with yells and cheers.

The ire of supporters for the Democratic socialist senator from Vermont was not only reserved for Schultz and Clinton. At a news conference earlier in the day hosted by the Bernie Delegates Network, Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate from California and the network's national coordinator, called Clinton's selection of centrist Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate an "assault on the progressive base."

Among the Sanders delegates, Solomon said "there's talk about walking out of the vice presidential and presidential acceptance speech, there's talk about total silence, remaining seated, turning backs."

The issues that demonstrators were most passionate about included protesting the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement, fracking, advocating a less militant foreign policy and the fairness of the Democratic primary process.

In recent days, a trove of emails exchanged among top officials at the Democratic National Committee revealed apparent attempts to undermine Sanders. The revelation galvanized the anti-Clinton crowd in Philadelphia.

"I will never give money the DNC money again," said Rebecca Waring, visiting from Baltimore. "This is a breach of the public trust."

Along with the hardcore Sanders supporters who marched down Broad Street to FDR Park, hundreds of demonstrators separately marched down Market Street to Independence Mall as part of the March for a Clean Revolution. But while the issues may have been climate change and fracking, Sanders shirts still reigned supreme.


Pro-Bernie Sanders protesters in Philadelphia were furious at Hillary Clinton, as well as the Democratic establishment.
Ivan Levingston | CNBC
Pro-Bernie Sanders protesters in Philadelphia were furious at Hillary Clinton, as well as the Democratic establishment.

However, with their nominee all but formally out of the running, many demonstrators said they were planning to vote for the Green Party's presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Cheers for Stein even erupted at a Sanders rally, and her name was readily visible on signs at demonstrations.

Darcy Samek, visiting from Minnesota, said she took issue with Clinton's hawkish foreign policy and was leaning toward Stein.

"[Stein] more represents me than Hillary," Samek said. "Hillary or Trump, they're both terrible."


Protesters demonstrate at the 'March For Bernie' ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, U.S., on Sunday, July 24, 2016.
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Protesters demonstrate at the 'March For Bernie' ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, U.S., on Sunday, July 24, 2016.

Both marches were peaceful, and escorted by large contingencies of police on bicycles. The demonstrators from across the country were well organized and spirited in their chants. But the revelry fully exposed the Democratic Party's divide between its establishment and progressive wings just as the quadrennial gathering meant to bring the party together kicks off.

One pedestrian was more succinct in calling the mood as he saw it, shouting from the sidewalk, "Party unity is a damn joke."

Correction: This story was revised to correct the spelling of Rebecca Waring's last name.