There are some inherent difficulties in covering this type of event which I’ve had to learn about the hard way. The physical space itself presents a huge challenge. There are several miles between the protests downtown and the Wells Fargo Arena, site of the convention proper and additional daily protesters numbering in the thousands. The physical separation is compounded by the paucity of available parking spaces and extreme downtown congestion. Which is all a way of saying this entire undertaking is an eye-opening experience with regards to what journalists accomplish with limited resources and only so many hours in a day and impatient editors and troll infested comment sections. Reporting is not easy, and the people who practice the art well should be applauded, not penned up in the back of a rally and ridiculed. Yes, it all comes back to Donald Trump. No, I am not including myself in the group of people to applaud. I clearly have no idea what I’m doing.
Downtown Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon saw a great deal of energy being expended by those deeply opposed to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Many people I talked to yesterday were offended by the behavior of the Democratic National Committee. Fair enough: the DNC acted rather childishly and made some silly remarks during their email game of insider baseball. Perhaps more energy should be expended on investigating the possibility that Russia is attempting to decide the outcome of a US Presidential election and Donald Trump’s financial ties to Vladimir Putin and his council of oligarchs. This Russian connection to the DNC email leak story is being reported by outlets including the New York Times,Washington Post and LA Times. Surely this is the story, not the election meddling of Debbie Wasserman-Schulz. There is absolutely no question that if this story was about Hillary Clinton and her ties to the Russian government, all hell would break loose for her campaign. Donald Trump has a remarkable ability to skirt by untouched even as he leaves scorched earth in the rearview mirror. The issue of the Russians may prove to be the end of the road for his lightly scrutinized sordid past and present dealings.
Wednesday has been incredibly tranquil compared to the first two days of the DNC. There are very few protesters out in the downtown area. The reasons for this probably have quite a bit to do with the energy of pro-Bernie supporters. Their fervor has been dampened considerably by events inside the convention. Hillary has the nomination, and Bernie encouraged a simple roll call vote to get the thing done. All of this feels like an ending to the largest protests, but Thursday may prove differently. As of now, there are no major crowds downtown. Sporadic protests and marches, individuals showing dissent or assent for various issues and candidates, but nothing in the way of mass demonstrations. Thursday will prove an interesting coda to the convention season.
All of this placidity downtown led Jimi and I to make our way to Osage street in west Philadelphia, site of the firebombing of the MOVE compound by the city of Philadelphia in 1985. MOVE is a black liberation group founded by John Africa in 1972. The group is known for communal living and actions taken to protest and combat systemic racism within city government. In 1978 a standoff occurred between MOVE and city police which led to the death of an officer and the imprisonment of nine members of the group. By 1985, tension between MOVE and various city officials and departments reached some kind of tipping point. A standoff developed between John Africa and his followers and the leadership of the city, including Mayor W. Wilson Goode, who declared the group a terrorist organization and ordered the police to end the standoff.
The Philadelphia Police Department procured liquid gel C4 explosive from the FBI, flew a helicopter above the MOVE compound on Osage Avenue, and firebombed the building. The city then stood by as the fire spread from 6221 Osage to surrounding houses. The firebombing by the city of Philadelphia consumed 65 houses completely. Eleven people died as a result of the firebombing and subsequent inferno, including MOVE leader John Africa, five other adults, and five children. I’ll be releasing a video of our trip to Osage Avenue later today. Even now there are numerous abandoned and boarded over houses up and down the block. We spoke to current residents who claimed to have lived on the block at the time of the bombing. Which is all to confirm a great truth laid out by William Faulkner a century ago: “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”