The DNC Was Virtual, but the Protests Were Real as Hell

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fairly difficult
Away from the convention's cameras, activists from around the country converged on the city to protest police violence and the party's lackluster vision.
In the early months of 2020, this year's Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Milwaukee seemed primed for a showdown between the moderate and progressive wings of the party. Organizers with the Coalition to March on the DNC, an alliance of over 70 groups from around the country, initially planned for a huge turnout, and hoped to use the occasion to advance left policy demands.1 Ad Policy

Of course, history had a different plan. In response to Covid-19, the party dramatically scaled the convention's physical presence in Milwaukee down to virtually nothing. And instead of centering the Democratic presidential ticket, the protests felt more like an extension of this year's nationwide protests against police violence than a repeat of 2016, when pro-Bernie partisans descended on Philadelphia, and Sanders delegates staged a dramatic walkout.2

The first three days of the 2020 DNC were marked by banner drops and other minor actions, but the last day of the convention saw its biggest direct action. On Thursday, August 20, about 500 protesters gathered in Red Arrow park, the site of the 2014 police killing of Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old mentally ill Black man.3

Ryan Hamann, a Wisconsin organizer with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and cochair of the Coalition to March on the DNC, had been involved in organizing the protest for months. He acknowledged that turnout was lower than once expected, but also that the event's focus had evolved. "We decided that it would make sense for us to make the emphasis of our action the one point of unity that deals with police crimes," he said. "We want to pressure Joe Biden and the Democrats to put an end to killer cops."4

A small handful of protesters had traveled to Wisconsin from around the country, including a notable showing of the modern reincarnation of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)—a much diminished iteration of the organization that once played a key role in the tumultuous 1968 DNC protests in Chicago.…
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