Protest groups: Expect 30+ demonstrations at the DNC

Brianna Jones listens as Asa Khalif, one of the founders of the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice, speaks as local protest leaders hold a meeting to finalize plans for the Democratic National Convention.

Protesters preparing for the Democratic National Convention are ready - and organized.

Members of disparate groups have collaborated to create a handbook for marchers, a schedule of events, and even their own newspaper.

On Wednesday, the DNC Action Committee, which is working to coordinate the many planned protests and rallies, released information on demonstrations and events during the city's week in the national spotlight.

"I do believe they built a stage on top of this city and they thought it was just going to be their show," said Brianna Jones, founder of the Action Committee, which has hosted bi-weekly meetings to unite different groups. "They have another thing coming."

Events begin Saturday with a day of peaceful protest training at the Arch Street United Methodist Church.

The church will stay open around the clock during the convention, the pastor, the Rev. Robin Hynicka, said, to serve as a haven for demonstrators in need of refuge or respite from the expected hot weather.

One of the first large marches is activist Cheri Honkala's March for Our Lives, Monday at 3 p.m. Her group, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, advocates for the poor and homeless.

Honkala's group is setting up a "Clintonville" in FDR Park for people to stay overnight. "We're making an entire shantytown," she said.

The city has said no camping is allowed in the park. "If you do try to camp in FDR Park, you will be respectfully asked to relocate," said spokeswoman Lauren Hitt. Organizers at the meeting Wednesday handed out a thick packet of planned demonstrations along with a newspaper called Unconventional Times. Suzy Subways, who edited the paper, said she hopes it becomes a vehicle for explaining the reasons behind the protests visitors will see.

Topics include policing, gentrification, environmental issues, Philadelphia's homeless rate, and the city's struggling child welfare system.

People "might be wondering, 'Why are you protesting the Democrats? They're our only hope against Trump!' " Subways said. "We have so many reasons to protest, especially in a city where tax abatements have gone to wealthy property owners as rents go up and housing wait list just gets longer and longer."

Wednesday's meeting included a range of social justice leaders who overwhelmingly support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and who express varying degrees of scorn for the presumed nominee, Hillary Clinton.

A lingering question is whether Sanders will make an appearance outside of the convention where he is expected to speak Monday.

Jones said that as of now there is no indication that will happen.

Some of the week's rallies include a clean energy march, a women's speak out and a Bernie-or-Bust rally. A full list of demonstrations and events is posted at DNCActioncommittee.com even more events are posted on the city's website on its convention page and on Facebook.

Each morning an interfaith prayer circle will be held at 8:30 at Thomas Paine Plaza.

Doug Campbell of Haddonfield is one of several hundred "Bernie Peacekeepers," who plan to go where the tension is to prevent any violence.

"Quakers were taught conflict resolution techniques and that's to engage someone, with respect, when you see them overly enthusiastic and quietly listen to them," Campbell said.

Another technique Campbell likes: "Get everyone in the area to peacefully sit down around the person, it's a powerful thing."

Asa Khalif, one of the founders of the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice, said his group is for peace as well, but he still wants to make sure his group is heard.

The coalition is holding a Black DNC Resistance March leaving from 15th and Diamond Streets on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

"We want every rebel ... every person who is completely rebellious against this institution of white supremacy and racism to please come out," Khalif said. "You will not be censored whatsoever. We're going to give you the mic and you speak your truth."

jterruso@phillynews.com

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