Philadelphia protesters say it's 'Bernie or bust'

Alex Schaefer, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, puts on a Bernie costume for a demonstration at Dillworth Park in Philadelphia. Photo / AP
Alex Schaefer, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, puts on a Bernie costume for a demonstration at Dillworth Park in Philadelphia. Photo / AP

Thousands of demonstrators are taking to Philadelphia's sweltering streets, cheering, chanting and beating drums in the first major protests ahead of the Democratic National Convention, as the city wilts during a heatwave.

Throngs of Bernie Sanders supporters marched down a main thoroughfare to show their support of him and disdain for Hillary Clinton ahead of the convention which starts tomorrow.

Chanting "Hell No, DNC, we won't vote for Hillary" and "This is what democracy looks like," the marchers headed from City Hall down Broad St, the main north-south artery that leads from the city centre to the convention site about 6.5km away.

Many carried Sanders signs, and a huge Bernie Sanders puppet was also a part of the festivities.

Police officers rode bicycles along each side of the march and the thousands of protesters cooled off in city fire hydrants that were opened along the road.

The heatwave that descended on the city was showing no mercy, with temperatures reaching the high 30s and the city under an "excessive heat" warning by the National Weather Service.

It's expected to peak tomorrow, with temperatures possibly hitting 37 C.

Thousands of clean energy activists jammed a downtown street in their 1.5km-long march from City Hall to Independence Mall, near the Liberty Bell.

They held anti-fracking and anti-pipeline signs, some with illustrations like a train surrounded by a fireball and the words "No Exploding Trains".

Others held "Bernie or Bust" signs.

Sam Miller, 82, travelled from Erie, Pennsylvania, to join the march that stretched several blocks and across a wide street as temperatures in the city soared into the mid-90s.

He said he was inspired because "fracking is invading Mother Earth".

Like in Cleveland, police were using bicycles as barricades along the streets, and volunteers were handing out water to marchers. Shoppers came out of stores to watch the march like a parade.

Chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" were met by counter echoes of "Hillary! Hillary!"

Crowds braving the weather could take advantage of "misting tents" and free water, compliments of the city.

Some of the largest protests and demonstrations start about 6.4km north of the arena where the convention is being held. In Cleveland last week, most protests during the Republican National Convention were concentrated in a tight, 4.4 sq km zone downtown.

A heavy police presence and fewer than expected protesters helped keep the calm. There were only about two dozen arrests and no significant injuries.


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