Veteran protesters mix with newcomers outside convention

AP News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2016 4:07 PM
Veteran protesters mix with newcomers outside convention

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For some of the protesters outside the Democratic convention this week, the demonstrations in Philadelphia are the latest in a lifetime of political activism. For others, they're a first.

The demonstrators have come from near and far, some driven by specific issues, some inspired by a candidate.

Here are some of their stories.

PAPIER-MACHE SEATMATE

Sue Kirby needed a second seat on the bus from Boston for her traveling and protesting companion: a larger-than-life Bernie Sanders doll with a papier-mache head and foam body.

Kirby, 65, built the doll about a year ago for Sanders rallies near home in Salem, Massachusetts. She learned from a lifetime of activism that having a prop is a good way to get public (and media) attention.

It works: People take pictures with him, and reporters ask questions.

Back in the 1970s, Kirby protested against the Vietnam War and in favor of women's rights. The slightly built Kirby later worked as a welder at a factory so she could be a union organizer. She also worked for a policy organizing group for senior citizens.

Now she's retired. "This is my job," she said.

She sees younger Sanders supporters on the same activism path she was on 40 years ago. "I sort of see the next generation coming forward, being helped by the generation before them," she said.

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INSPIRATION OVERSEAS

Living abroad helped Daisy Chacon tune into politics in the U.S., her home country.

Chacon, 31, returned to Boston in May after spending two years teaching English in Spain. She found that people there knew what was going on in their country — and hers. "They stand up for things," Chacon said.

At the same time, she caught wind of Sanders and his populist movement. "To be honest, Bernie lit a fire under me," she said. "I really didn't believe in the political system before Bernie."

As protesters began to show up for a rally Wednesday, Chacon, a student at Salem State University in Massachusetts, carried a sign calling for a ban on the gas-drilling technique known as fracking. She also had a plastic bag of "Latinos for Bernie" buttons to hand out.

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AWAKENED BY SANDERS

Twenty-two-year-old Arthur Ryshov (REE-jawv), born in Russia and adopted by a family in Indiana, recently became a U.S. citizen, and now he is exercising his right to free speech.

Ryshov, who works for an engineering firm, came to Philadelphia from Bedford, Indiana, with his mother and has joined rallies and protests near City Hall and outside the Wells Fargo Center, where the evening convention proceedings are held.

Like most of the protesters, Ryshov is a Sanders supporter. He became one only in the last few months. Before researching Sanders and following his speeches on YouTube, Ryshov said, he wasn't interested in politics at all.

"He opened my eyes to the reality we live in," Ryshov said.

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CHECKING IT OUT

At the edge of a rally on Wednesday, Drew Webb held a sign with a line drawn through the word "oligarchy."

Webb, 32, said he really hadn't given any thought to destroying oligarchy, but he does like the idea of the rally's hero, Sanders. "He's got a good cause," Webb said. "He's bringing people together."

Even though he was off to the side, Webb considers himself a protester.

Webb, a Philadelphian who served just over two years in prison for drug trafficking, volunteers with a prison reform group. A few weeks ago, he joined his first march, making his way from impoverished North Philadelphia to Center City to protest violence by police against black people.

After witnessing nearly two years of similar demonstrations across the country, he finally felt compelled to join in: "Now it's a boiling point."

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JUST ARRIVING

Wednesday was the third or fourth day for many protesters. They nursed foot blisters and sunburns and were generally haggard.

Not Jorge Ruvalcaba, 28, a computer technician from Palmdale, California, who was born in California but grew up in Mexico.

He arrived Tuesday night and was fresh for a day of protest. Despite temperatures in the 90s, he had on long pants and a long-sleeve shirt with a T-shirt over it reading "Our Political Revolution Bernie."

Ruvalcaba is also a political neophyte, becoming a Sanders supporter just a few months ago.

While many protesters have spent days railing against Hillary Clinton and pledging not to support her, Ruvalcaba said his mission is to try to make sure she fights for key elements of Sanders' agenda.

"If Bernie says we need to support her," he said, "I guess, you know, what the heck?"

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Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill