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PHILADELPHIA — If the first hours of the Democratic National Convention are any indication, it will be anything but an easy road to the party’s nomination for Hillary Clinton.
The sweltering streets of South Philadelphia were overrun with pro-Bernie Sanders protesters on Monday, fueled by the devastating email leaks that revealed party leaders had strategized on how to eliminate Sanders from the race.
Earlier that afternoon, Sanders pleaded with delegates to embrace Clinton in remarks made at the Philadelphia Convention Center, telling them “we live in the real world” and need to embrace unity to beat “bully and demagogue” Donald Trump. They booed.
He then sent an email blast to supporters asking that they not protest on the convention floor at the Wells Fargo Center. But Sanders’ call went unheeded.
The first hours of speeches were interrupted by a sizable and extremely vocal pro-Sanders faction. They booed whenever Clinton’s name was evoked and erupted into chants of “Bernie! Bernie!”
Speakers like Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge — who replaced Deborah Wasserman Schultz as Democratic National Committee chair after Schultz resigned over the email scandal — grew visibly flustered as her remarks were drowned out by boos.
Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, who has been an outspoken critic of Sanders’ record throughout the primary, emerged to a similar chorus of jeers.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who spoke out on issues like Black Lives Matter, was overpowered by a large group seated in the south end of the arena chanting “No TPP!” — a reference to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Sanders has vocally opposed.
Inside the arena, the disunity could be felt on a macro level. A Clinton supporter in her 50s angrily asked a Sanders supporter in her 30s what she expected to accomplish from her protests. “I have as much right to be here as you do,” the Sanders supporter replied. “Do your research, honey.”
Moments of levity were few and far between. An appearance by Boys II Men early on brought the crowd to its feet, dancing to the local group’s 1991 hit, “Motownphilly.”
And the universe of Harry Potter made an unlikely appearance, as Diane Russell, a Sanders supporter and state representative from Maine, quoted Albus Dumbledore, the wizard headmaster of Hogwarts, in an attempt at uniting the two factions.
“You know,” Russell said, “Dumbledore from Harry Potter once said, ‘It takes great courage to stand up to your enemies. It takes even greater courage to stand up to your friends.'”
Sanders will address the crowd later in the evening, reportedly repeating his calls to put aside differences in order to defeat Trump. First lady Michelle Obama will also speak during tonight’s kickoff of the four-day event.
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