Bernie Sanders takes selfies with voters outside Philadelphia City Hall on Election Day.

Bernie Sanders takes selfies with voters outside Philadelphia City Hall on Election Day.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Why Bernie supporters will still flood the DNC even though he gave up

Nine of 21 permitted protests next week have a Bernie Sanders focus and as one group describes it, a “Festivus” feel.

At some point next week, expect to see dozens, maybe hundreds of Bernie Sanders masks. Bruce Carter and other members of Black Men For Bernie plan to don them as part of a Bernie appreciation party at their local headquarters on Broad Street. They’ll also rally at Thomas Paine Plaza, expecting a crowd of 2,000, and they won’t be the only ones feeling the Bern next week in Philly.

Judging by the scheduled protests, if you’re in Philly, you’ll be forced to feel the Bern, too, or at least come to grips with the Bern. Everybody will have to. There are nine permitted demonstrations that have a Sanders theme or are being organized by a Sanders support group. Only 12 other demonstrations had permits, as of Thursday. If this sounds like a lot of support for a candidate who has endorsed Clinton for president, well it’s not for these groups. They are not ready to give up on the dream of a Bernie presidency.

“We believe that Bernie Sanders is the nominee,” said protest organizer Laurie Cestnick, “and we’re fighting for his nomination.”

Cestnick applied for a permit for a group called Occupy DNC that is planning “Rally, March and Bernie in the Park.” His endorsement of Clinton has not inspired any changes to their program. They will be trying to get voters to pledge to write-in Sanders this November and to raise money during three nights of events at Trilogy (yes, that Trilogy) so the efforts to get more write-ins can continue after the DNC. The goal is 20 million signatures.

“We’re there,” said Cestnick, “to try to get him a win.”   

Rallies organized by Billy Taylor, a Northeast Philly resident, will share this same sentiment. Taylor reserved permits for three, including one at FDR Park that will take up four of six protest zones throughout the week. His group, PhillyFYI, will have a $100,000 donated stage. The Sanders campaign has been in discussions with them about using some of their space. The group’s hope is Bernie might even make an appearance on that six-figure stage.  

One PhillyFYI member said their protests would have a Festivus feel. And the endorsement didn’t deflate their dreams of Sanders somehow still running in November: “He works in mysterious ways.”

On Friday, after Clinton is expected to get the nomination Thursday night, Occupy DNC may hold a de-registration rally, advocating for Democrats to switch their registration to the Green Party. Cestnick remains a Democrat but might not for much longer. She will not vote for Clinton, even though she admits a lack of support from Sanders’ advocates could help Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“We’d rather hold all the cards up in the air,” Cestnick said, “and let them land where they may.”

Carter thinks the same. One of Black Men For Bernie’s goals is to ensure the Democrats do not win the White House.

He reserved a permit to protest before Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton. Unlike some of the other groups, the endorsement has led to a change in strategy for their rallies. Black Men For Bernie’s focus will be on highlighting what its members define as injustices against low-income, primarily minority Americans.    

But they still plan to wear those Sanders masks for at least part of next week.

“He’s the individual that woke up so many,” Carter said, “so there is a gratitude for the awakening.”

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