“Are you all ready for a political revolution?” shouted Lev Hirschorn, an organizer with “Reclaim Philadelphia,” to a group of about 40 activists under the sweltering midday heat on ahead of a protest of the Democratic National Convention's top organizers.
Then he fainted.
Temperatures reached 93 degrees in Philadelphia, but that didn’t stop members of “Reclaim Philadelphia” from marching through the streets of Center City on Wednesday to call for the resignations of Democratic National Convention Host Committee chair Ed Rendell, special advisor David Cohen, and finance chair Daniel Hilferty.
“We’re taking our message to these men – these three white old dudes who think they represent this city,” said activist John Lazarz.
Hirschorn, who recovered after a rest and some water, was back with the protesters 30 minutes later as they marched through the streets, chanting slogans like, “DNC reveal your donors! We don’t like your corporate owners!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! The host committee has got to go!”
“Reclaim Philadelphia” is a group of former Bernie Sanders supporters who ahead of the DNC have a new mission much like that of the candidate they supported: bringing the Democratic Party into line with their values.
“Most of the people here were Bernie Sanders voters, but this is bigger than Bernie,” Hirschorn said. “Corporations, CEOs, millionaires, billionaires have way too much influence on the political system. They can pass an agenda that is opposed not just by a majority of Americans, but by the vast majority of Democrats.”
They want the DNC officials to resign because they have not publicly released the donors funding the convention.
The activists said they believe confidential donations might influence the party platform, which is being hashed out in Florida ahead of the convention.
“If they’re not hiding anything, why do they not show them?” asked activist Xelba Gutiérrez.
In a letter sent on June 22 to the DNC demanding the resignations, Reclaim Philadelphia cited the men’s involvement in various causes that they portrayed as opposed to the Democratic Party.
Hilferty, a CEO of Independence Blue Cross, they said, lobbied against Obamacare. Cohen is executive vice president of Comcast, which they said “enjoys criminal levels of tax exemption.” Rendell, meanwhile, was criticized for advocating the development of Philadelphia as an energy hub, among other accusations.
“Cynically playing both sides of the aisle while spending millions to scuttle the highest goals of the Party they represent, Mr. Rendell, Mr. Hilferty, and Mr. Cohen are uniquely unqualified to serve on the Host Committee,” they wrote.
Protesters on Wednesday marched to the Comcast Center, Independence Blue Cross’ offices, and the offices of Ballard Spahr LLP, where Rendell is a partner, to deliver letters requesting the three men resign.
The state Office of Open Records ordered the DNC Host Committee to release the records by July 14 in response to a request filed by the Philly Declaration news blog.
The DNC Host Committee said they don’t intend to release the financial records until 60 days after the convention, in compliance with Federal Election Commission regulations.
“We are fully in compliance with the law, and to state otherwise is to not understand the facts,” said spokeswoman Anna Adams-Sarthou.
But like Sanders, the Reclaim Philadelphia activists believe “transparency” should come before the convention.
“The money of politics trickles down to influence the issues we are trying to press on,” Gutiérrez said.