PHILADELPHIA — At the opening meeting of the Pennsylvania Delegation on Monday, the theme was unity and working together.
Outside, just a few blocks from the delegates’ meeting at the Doubletree Center City Hotel, thousands of protesters — most of them supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — gathered not just to support their candidate, but to rant against Hillary Clinton.
So much for party unity.
Sanders was scheduled to speak on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, apparently to put an exclamation point on his endorsement of Clinton. Sanders had waged a spirited battle for the Democratic nomination, but Clinton secured enough first-ballot votes to garner the nomination.
But that reality did not discourage Sanders’ supporters outside of Philadelphia City Hall; they braved high temperatures and humidity to get their point across. And that point was obvious — they are in no way supporting Clinton.
Thousands were chanting and carrying signs, urging the “Bernie Revolution” to continue to the convention floor and beyond. They called Clinton “a war maker” and signs read, “DNC — Does Not Care.”
Around the corner, a young man sat with a cardboard sign that said, “Homeless man,” bringing a dose of reality to the state of America and the Democratic Party’s vow to raise wages, create jobs and stir the economy.
Sanders supporters also marched down Broad Street in protest. According to The Associated Press, protesters were shouting “Nominate Sanders or lose in November!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the DNC has got to go!” The scene held up traffic for about an hour downtown.
On the other side of City Hall, a group of Florida delegates waited for transportation back to their hotel. When told of the Sanders rally a few blocks away, they became incensed.
“Do they want to vote for Trump?” a delegate asked. “A vote for Trump is a vote against America. We can’t let our country go to Trump.”
Another delegate said she hoped Sanders would say all the rights things when he addressed the convention Monday night.
“He has to show that he is 100 percent behind Hillary,” the delegate said.
That scene was in sharp contrast to the mood at the Pennsylvania Delegation breakfast, where U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf rallied the 200 or so in the room by talking about Clinton and how she will lead America back to much better economic days and how national security will be improved.
Grace McGregor Kramer, a delegate from Scranton, said she felt energized as she prepared to attend the first night of the convention.
“It’s all about how the Democratic Party stands for equality and bringing people together,” Kramer said. “I expect a much more positive message this week than what we saw and heard coming out of (the Republican convention in) Cleveland last week.”
Kramer said some differences remain within the party, but she insisted that Democrats will come out of his week united.
“All Democrats have a good vision of what we want America to be,” she said.
Gov. Wolf reminded the delegates that Philadelphia is where America started in 1776.
“Pennsylvania is where great things begin,” he said. “We have to make a good beginning here for this campaign.”
Marcel Groen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, told the delegates that the goal is to make history this week.
“And to the Bernie Sanders delegates, we want you, we need you, and we want you to be part of us,” Groen said. “As Democrats, we want to speak with one voice.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.