The Second National Day of Protests for Bernie Sanders kicked off in nearly 45 cities on February 27, 2016. I once again demonstrated in Philly for the Philly #MarchForBernie2 protest. This time around I helped organize the Cannabis Contingent: Philly #MarchForBernie2 under the East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC). Over 600 persons demonstrated in Philly and nearly all of them supported the cannabis cause, making the day a total success.
The first #MarchforBernie took place in only 35 cities back on January 23 (some of which were delayed due to the snowstorm until January 31, including Philly, NYC & DC). This was the “first-ever nationwide march for a presidential candidate” declared U.S. Uncut, which critiqued the media black-out under the title: “Media Shrugs as Thousands of Bernie Sanders Supporters March Across the Country.” The media completely ignored this political action that at least 25,000 demonstrators took part in nationwide. Hardly any news stations covered the more than 600 demonstrators in Philly on January 31, as I noted in my blog, despite the large size.
The media blackout continued for #MarchForBernie2. U.S. Uncut once again released an article headlined: “Media Blackout As Thousands of Bernie Sanders Supporters March in 45 Cities.” The article read: “The insane reality that a candidate like Bernie can rouse thousands to take to the streets for him and yet still be treated by the media and the DNC like some kind of long-shot underdog only further proves the deliberate nature of their attempted sabotage of his campaign.” Yet the Sanders campaign “is thriving” the article explained, whereas Clinton’s campaign “hasn’t been able to muster enough supporters for a march of any kind for the entire election season.” Some cities did better than others in receiving press coverage, but that didn’t mean all the press coverage was high quality, as Pittsburgh organizers discovered for their first-ever #MarchforBernie on February 27. Over 1,000 demonstrators rallied for Bernie in Pittsburgh, but one demonstrator blogged about the low quality of the press coverage. The blogger critiqued the Pittsburgh WPXI-TV coverage for emphasizing the “inconvenience” the march had on traffic routes.
Specifically, the Philly rally had trouble getting mainstream press, despite the rally taking place the same day of the Democratic South Carolina primary (which Clinton won with blacks voting for her 6 to 1 over Sanders, and won in a landslide with 74 percent of the vote as a whole in the state). I personally contacted the southern New Jersey office of NJ.com two weeks prior to the event, stating that NJWeedman would be speaking and smoking, along with the ECCC press release for the cannabis contingent. I received an email that they would get back to me, but they never did, which is surprising because NJ.com has covered every protest I ever organized for weed. Another surprise is the missing Philly NBC 10 article for the rally. Throughout the early part of the rally in the courtyard at City Hall, the NBC 10 news crew moved around filming every aspect of the event, but as of now there has been no article released by the network.
Therefore, the Philly rally (and most Bernie protests) relied completely on social media. What also helped was the coalition of progressive groups reaching out on social media that produced such a large turnout. As for the cannabis contingent, we attracted thousands of pot activists to the ECCC Facebook event page that was linked to the main event page. Prior to the rally the only link found on Google about the Philly event – besides the main page – was a link for the Cannabis Contingent on evensi.com (a city event location website). After the rally, news reports were not forthcoming. A short video clip from a Philly demonstrator was posted on DemocraticUnderground.com. But this is pathetic media coverage for a rally easily surpassing 600 demonstrators for a presidential campaign that is declaring a “political revolution.” Yet on social media, the Philly Bernie protest as well as the others turned out to be a ‘yuuuuge’ success. Photos from the Philly rally and from other cities were shared through millions of computers on Facebook’s most notorious Sanders group: “Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash,” which hovered just above 333,000 members at the time of the rally.
In Philly, speeches began at noon inside the courtyard at City Hall. The main speakers stemmed from Veterans For Bernie and numerous progressive organizations. The march around Center City began around 1:00. Just as before, the march received loud applause and mostly approval among bystanders. Even though it was just below 40 degrees we were kept warm by the sun shining down on us all day. Leading the parade was an orange jeep that played songs that had the word “burn” in it.
Cannabis activists played a big part for #MarchForBernie2. Pittsburgh NORML members helped lead the city’s first Bernie march on February 27, which nearly 1,000 people turned out for. In Philly, the Cannabis Contingent carried a 15-foot wide banner for the ECCC. NJWeedman gave his speech during one of the rest breaks in the march. He denounced Hillary Clinton for supporting her husband’s draconian Drug Laws in the 1990s, which locked up millions of cannabis consumers. The ECCC also passed out 200 flyers for its upcoming 420 Smoke-Out in Trenton, NJ. Additional speakers in Philly included Captain Ray Lewis and attorney Michael Coard. Captain Ray Lewis personally spoke at the ECCC’s March 21, 2015, rally in Trenton to support legalization and is all for legalization. Coard was NJWeedman’s defense attorney for his 2004 Liberty Bell Smoke-Out protests in Philly, and helped NJWeedman get his charges dropped. At the rally, Coard called for black people to stop “drinking the Clinton cool-aid.”
Philly could possibly go down in America’ public memory as the city being affiliated with the year 2016. The Democratic National Convention will be in Philly this year, with many comparing it to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Event pages on Facebook have already sprouted up for protests during the Convention, such as the July 24 “#March For Bernie In Philly Against The DNC.” Philly activists are building coalitions and big numbers by organizing some of the largest #MarchForBernie 1 & 2 protests nationwide. There may be future #MarchForBernie protests in Philly, but as of now the next big event in Philly that falls under the category of Bernie is the Democracy Spring march launching from the Liberty Bell on April 2, and will conclude on April 11 at the White House in D.C. Democracy Spring is an action aimed at getting big money out of politics and is trying to organize 10,000 people to perform nonviolent sit-downs in D.C. to apply pressure on the over-funded politicians. The Bernie campaign in Philly is organizing numerous organizations from across the political spectrum and preparing them for the epic political battles expected to come within this campaign. The ECCC wants to remain completely involved in direct action projects. Thanks to Sanders support of legalization, cannabis groups such as the ECCC can finally be accepted by non-cannabis organizations under the Sanders campaign.