Protesters of Philadelphia: DNC 2016

By Shilpa Saravanan, Intern, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Note: Views expressed by individuals profiled in our series are their own, and they do not reflect ACLU or ACLU-PA positions. The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates.

“I’m protesting Hillary. I’m protesting all of the establishment, really.” (Calif.)

“I’ve been a Bernie supporter for a long time — since even before he announced his candidacy. I still have hope that the DNC will do the right thing and see what Bernie has to offer.” (R.I.)

“I’m raising third-party awareness — for the Libertarian Party in particular.” (Ill., left)

“People who are pissed at Hillary need somewhere to go. Johnson is a great option.” (Pa., right)

“I really hope there’s some breakdown of the bullshit going on in both parties. Bernie opened my eyes to the fact that we’re getting fucked over. He cares and he’s making an effort. He’s leveling with us.” (Pa., left)

“Many of the issues that Bernie stood for brought my attention to things I’d always believed. I felt like I needed to do something for him. Bernie got me here.” (Pa., center)

“I’m protesting the entirety of the DNC system. I’ll go with Jill Stein over Hillary if Bernie doesn’t win.” (PA, right)

“We’re here because of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri. It’s an EPA Superfund site. There’s an underground landfill fire burning across from 50,000 tons of radioactive waste. The stench is horrible. People within a half-mile radius of the site can get chronic nosebleeds, watery eyes, and sore throats. If the waste and fire ever meet, the schools will have to go into a shelter-in-place because the meeting will create a ‘dirty bomb’ of radioactive particles. We don’t know how far these particles will go; it’s impossible to predict, because it depends on the wind.

“Just Moms STL is fighting this, but Republic Services, which owns the landfill, subpoenaed them. They’re trying to silence Just Moms; they’re trying to confiscate their emails, their Facebook, and their banners and flyers.

Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) pulled HR 4100 from the House floor. HR 4100 gives jurisdiction of the site to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will remove the nuclear waste and make the area safe.” (Mo.)

“We raised over a thousand dollars to feed and take care of protesters at the DNC. We’ve got everything from sunscreen to toothpaste.” (N.H.)

“I’ve voted for Bernie more times than anybody here. Well, maybe not. There are probably other Vermonters here. This is just a lighthearted way to walk down the parade route and get people to ask questions.” (Vt.)

“I’m here for Bernie. I’m here to support actual democracy, and I’ve brought my niece, who’s 15. Bernie won our district 70–30, but our superdelegate will not change his support for Hillary Clinton. We’re asking for representation.” (Calif.)

“If the DNC chooses Hillary Clinton as its nominee, I will no longer vote Democratic. I’ll move to a third party. I’m really hoping for a miracle at the DNC; I’m hoping Bernie still has some tricks up his sleeve. It might be a long shot, but we’re hanging in there. And we’re all literally burning now.” (Va., left)

“The DNC has to receive our message. If enough people go to the DNC with this message, the DNC will hear it.” (Md., right)

“These are dangerous times. We’ve got a fascist, misogynistic, immigrant-bashing, xenophobic candidate in Trump, and Hillary Clinton is a criminal. This is the criminal choice of a criminal system. We’ve got to fight the system and start a revolution. People think Trump’s a joke, but the RNC showed that the system treats him as a legitimate candidate. There are lots of people here trying to pressure the Democrats, but that’s never brought any real change. The only way to create change is for people to take to the streets, to stand up and fight. Until we address the roots of the problem, which are imperialism and capitalism, we’ll never have actual change.”

“We’ve been planning this trip for several months, and our main motive has been to show support for Bernie. We’re not happy with the primary, with the overt corruption that happened. But I’m here for lots of smaller issues, too: Israel vs. Palestine, Black Lives Matter — and getting money out of politics, which is the root of the problem.” (Fla.)

“Millions of animals are suffering every day, and no one’s talking about it. We’re giving them a voice, because it’s what we would want if this were happening to us.” (far left, Pa.)

“We’re pointing out the inconsistency in the fact that it’s illegal to kill a dog, but people get paid to kill cows.” (second from right, Pa.)

“Everyone wants to talk about climate change, but nobody wants to talk about the main reason for climate change. It’s animal agriculture.” (far right, Pa.)

“I’ve been working on a campaign for a group called The Revolution Starts With Us for a long time. I knew the DNC would attract the kinds of people who care about the issues I care about — like Black Lives Matter and climate change. I’ve been able to attend a lot of climate rallies, which I’m really excited about.” (Colo.)

“I was elected a delegate at the state convention on June 18. On July 18, I found out in an email from the state Democratic Party that I was no longer a delegate because they’d messed up the gender ratio. I was elected an alternate delegate, but since I’d already arranged this trip when I was a delegate, I’m just out here protesting.” (Mo.)

“I flew here to support Bernie Sanders. Our options right now — Clinton and Trump — are Bad vs. Worse, so I made these shirts.” (Calif.)

“Direct democracy!” (left, R.I.)

“Hillary’s very pro-war, very imperialistic, so I reworked her campaign slogan and image into these signs.” (center, R.I.)

“I’m here to protest the two-party system. I support Jill Stein, but I believe the cause is bigger than any one candidate.” (left, R.I.)

“I’m with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We’re here to promote third-party candidates Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear, as well as to talk to Bernie Sanders supporters about what brought them here, about what got them interested in Bernie Sanders, and about their ideas of what socialism is. We’re just doing outreach and taking the temperature of the Bernie Sanders movement, seeing where it’s heading.” (Pa.)

“I’m a local organizer and activist in Houston. I’m here to connect with nationwide organizations, to be a part of several demonstrations — the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in particular — and just to see the story of this week. This is an election to keep an eye on.” (Texas)

“I’m a member of Socialist Alternative. We ran a candidate for city council in Seattle — Kshama Sawant, who passed the first $15 minimum wage in a major city. She’s similar to Bernie Sanders; she ran on a working-class platform and took donations from working-class voters. Like Bernie, she’s showing that we can fight for working-class issues.

“I’m here to meet other people excited about working-class issues. We need a working-class party other than the two major parties — we need a party of the 99 percent. I’m voting for Jill Stein even though Bernie said to vote for Hillary Clinton. I disagree with Bernie on this; we need to fight the system. Even though I don’t agree with everything she stands for, a vote for Jill Stein is a vote to build a working-class party. The most urgent thing is to break the two-party system, and Bernie has shown us that we can do that.” (Pa.)

“It’s very clear now that we have an oligarchy, not a democracy. It’s been that way with all the corruption all along, but it’s become particularly apparent this election cycle that a handful of corporations and people have most of the influence — not just in our ‘democracy’, but all around the world, because of the global economy. I’m here to create awareness, to allow everyone to see this sign and ask ‘What is oligarchy, and how does it differ from democracy?’” (Colo.)

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Shilpa Saravanan is a rising sophomore studying computational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She hails from College Station, Texas.

ACLU Election 2016

ACLU Election 2016

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We are the ACLU’s Pennsylvania affiliate, defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy, and community education and outreach.

ACLU Election 2016

This is a website of the American Civil Liberties Union, a Section 501(c)(4) organization. To learn more about the ACLU and its affiliated organizations, please go to