Politics

Bernie Protesters Delay Congressman from Convention

Thousands of Bernie supporters protested on opening night of DNC

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chant as delegates enter the security perimeter for the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez spoke at the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. But he had a little trouble getting there.   

The Illinois congressman, who's a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton, got caught, with his family in tow, in a protest just outside the security perimeter for the Wells Fargo Center on Monday evening.   

Supporters of Bernie Sanders chanted, "Hell no DNC, we won't vote for Hillary" and "Bernie beats Trump!" as bagpipes and megaphones blared. 

Police estimated that several thousand protesters gathered outside the security perimeter into the evening on Monday.  

Several protesters were seen being willingly led away by police for climbing over metal barricades. In some cases, protesters even reached out to police for a helping hand making it over the hurdles.   

But the Philadelphia Police Department said Monday evening that they had made no arrests. They gave out disorderly conduct code violations to 55 people at the intersection of Broad and Pattison Streets near the Wells Fargo Center.  

Buses from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority blocked roads, while protestors hoisted "Still Bernie" signs into the air and looped red roses through the thick metal fence separating them from the delegates and press passing by to get through security.   

In Gutierrez's case, though, he was caught on the protesters' side of the fence and even after talking to several police officers and flashing his member ID card, he still had to weave back and forth through the protesters to find a way in.  

"You're from Chicago?" one police officer asked him, upon seeing his card. "Yes!" Gutierrez said. That wasn't enough. The officer sent him back in the other direction.   

Gutierrez may be a Clinton supporter, but his daughter was sporting a Bernie sticker, which the Illinois Democrat proudly noted to show how his own family is a microcosm of the diversity within the Democratic Party.  

Gutierrez wasn't exactly annoyed by the protesters. He celebrated it as a sign of democracy. But he was confused by their grievances.   

"Look, I was on the platform committee," he said. "I don’t know, Bernie Sanders said it was the most progressive platform that the Democratic Party has ever endorsed. I’m really proud of that." Winding through the demonstration to find another exit, each time Gutierrez saw a protest sign, he made the case for how his party had accommodated their demands, whether on trade, a $15-an-hour minimum wage or student debt.   

"Bernie Sanders said he’s speaking tonight. I’m trying to get in there and listen to him speak, but I can’t even get into the convention," Gutierrez said.   

He acknowledged, though, that leaked emails from the DNC criticizing Sanders were not helpful to the party.  

"The DNC has to be an objective force to make sure that they don’t tilt Democratic voters one way or another."  He added that Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz "did the right thing" by stepping down as DNC chairman over the controversy.  

After some wrangling, Gutierrez and his family finally made it through the line of police officers, beyond the metal barricade and into the security perimeter.  

Meanwhile, most protesters were oblivious to Gutierrez's struggle or even to who he was. 

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