DNC. Day 1. No press credentials. Hot and humid. Sweat on my brow and back. “No hope of a press pass,” the handlers say. To hell with waiting. “Where are the protesters?” I ask. City Hall, they said. I elbow through a parade of middle-aged demonstrators in downtown Philly. Hillary haters. They gum up the sidewalk. Stuck again. Sun barrels down. “Where are you?” a text reads. “I don’t know,” I respond. “But bring a lawyer.” A Hillary fan and a Bernie Bro battle it out on the curb. Newsmen and women scramble to eavesdrop. Mics in faces. Both sides posture. The crowd swells. Everyone dripping sweat. No shade. Just sun. And noise. A raucous noise. An ominous noise. Growling. More marching in the distance. More cops coming in. I take photo after photo after photo after photo. “What’s your medallion mean?” a man asks. “Means a lot to me,” I blurt. No patience at this point. Taking my blazer off. No help. Still hot as hell. Sweet jeezus. Meanwhile, the argument continues: “She deleted emails … She doesn’t release her speeches …” the Hillary head says. “His policy proposals are impractical … Writing is on the wall. … Not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump!” the man in a ‘Bernie or Bust’ shirt blurts. “Bernie’s busted!” a man blares from somewhere behind me. Jeers erupt. More shouting and clamoring. A rush of photographers take aim behind my head. I turn to look. A man hoists a cut-out of Bernie’s head and hands. A child’s laugh breaks the rising tension in the circle. I feel faint. Who cares? Not me … at least not right now. This is the nucleus of rotten politics in the mosh pit that has become the U.S.A.
Simon Moya-Smith's beaded medallion, an anti-R-word button, and other neck wear.
Woke up to no coffee and the aroma of weed in my room this morning. Potent. It bled through the walls like a benevolent specter. … Got me thinking. What if Hillary becomes POTUS? Is she the lesser of two evils?
People hate Trump.
People hate Clinton.
But no one appears to hate Sanders.
And if they do, they’re not as loud as the former. Worth noting.
Right. And if I were a betting man (and I am), I’d wager my phone is about to die. What you don’t see on TV is everyone EVERYONE frantically fighting for an outlet to charge their phone. Reminds me of all those mosh pits I grew up in. Good people turning bad in an instant over privilege, over space and time. “Excuse me, I was here first, sir!” a woman shouts in a nearby Starbucks. “It’ll only take a moment,” the suited and booted man replies. “Nuh-uh!” she responds. “You can wait.” Meanwhile, two men hug and kiss outside, in the distance. Love there. Anger and frustration in here. Time to leave this place. Move on.
Got a text again. This time from Marlon WhiteEagle, an editor from Wisconsin. We meet at Fatso Foggerty's, a pub on the south side of Philly. Two older black ladies laugh hysterically at the bar. A dog at their feet barks at anyone leaving the place like an adorable bouncer. Marlon has a Coke. I have two Jack and Cokes. Bartender eyes Marlon and I. “Who the fuck are these two?” I imagined her saying. This is indeed a local pub with a revolving door of regulars. The whole place is clam-baked with cigarette smoke. Makes me want one again. “You have smokes for sale?” I ask the bartender. “Across the street,” she says. Suddenly, Marlon gets a text telling us to zip to the Wells Fargo Center – The DNC. I down my drink, we crawl into an Uber, and get dumped about a mile away from the entry. “This is as far as I can take you,” the driver says. Cops blocked the road. Ten minutes of walking in 93-degree temps and suffocating humidity, and again I’m back in the mad mix of demonstrations. A child is dressed in a suit and tie, walking among the fray, shouting, “Bernie or bust!” A white boy goes around smudging people with sage. Cops here aren’t rushing him like they rushed Josie Valadez Fraire in Denver earlier this month outside of a Trump event. They allegedly told the indigenous woman that “smoke alarms” them.
The white boy wanders safely. Happily. Storm clouds loom in the distance, coming in quickly. “I could do a rain dance,” a man says behind us. Marlon turns and quips with the guy. Embarrassed probably, the man offers Marlon and I Ziploc bags for our phones for the coming storm. A torrent of rain hits the pavement and our skulls. Some protesters flee. Others stand and raise their hands to the gods in jubilation. Roaring hippie cheers compete with thunderclaps. To hell with this. Marlon and I trudge in wet clothes and shoes toward the entry of the DNC. We talk about our experiences in Marine Corps boot camp. “I was the first asshole to bleed all over the barracks,” I say. We talk of rain as medicine. We wade through a shallow lake which was a parking lot an hour ago. Was that a fish? Maybe. We finally make it into a tent just outside the center. Eyes immediately on Marlon and I. Just two soaking wet Indians amidst a crowd of dry, polished posh politicians, pundits, and people with day passes. Passing through strict security, and into the Wells Fargo Center, I make a squishing sound with every step. Wallet wet. Jeans wet. Boxer-briefs soaked. Socks even more. Don’t go anywhere near a socket. No way. Fights over there by those things. Learned my lesson earlier. I think I hear Bernie in the distance at the microphone. Sounds of approbation quickly give way to rumbles of boos. Can’t find a seat. “Try section 217,” a volunteer says. No luck. Everyone wants to see and hear Bernie. Be in his presence. I just want to sit down. Yes. Rest. Hours of standing and sun and rain and running and politics has taken its toll. “You grumpy sonofabitch,” I say aloud to myself. I stand in the hall and listen to the echo of speaker after speaker. “So this is why they call it a ‘Hall Pass.’”
A young protester is the center of attention at a protest outside the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennyslvania on July 25, 2016. Simon Moya-Smith.
Oh well. We’ll do this all again tomorrow. Day 2. And if it’s anything like today I’ll welcome it. A kid in a candy store. Instead of chocolate bites and jelly beans, cops and protesters and long lines and sun and humidity on display, and maybe more rain. If no rain, you can at least expect the storm.
Right. Back in I go. I’ll come up for air when the sharks circle. They’re here, too. I’ve seen a few. Blood in the water. Look for me in the middle.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @simonmoyasmith.