Thousands of protesters who came to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention say they’re leaving in peace, thanks to a hands-off approach by police that led to fewer than a dozen arrests over four days of demonstrations, the Associated Press reports. “This is what it looks like when you just let people get their message out: lots of expression and very little conflict,” said Mary Catherine Roper of the American Civil Liberties Union. Police, instead of hauling demonstrators off to jail as they did 16 years ago when Republicans gathered in the city, issued those who crossed the line $50 tickets for disorderly conduct and released them with free bottles of water. Demonstrators, who largely turned out to support Bernie Sanders, were careful to pick up after themselves and wore hats embroidered with a dove to remind everyone to remain peaceful.
The rallies and marches that some feared would result in violence and mass disruptions instead brought a festival-like atmosphere at times. Police reported making only 11 arrests, and officers and protesters alike were credited with showing restraint and courtesy. “I’m very happy so far with everyone,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, adding that his officers “took pride in what they did all week. Very patient, tolerant and courteous is what I was hearing from a lot of people.” As of last night, in addition to the 11 people arrested, about 100 protesters had been ticketed and fined. The ticketed demonstrators were briefly detained, their hands zip-tied behind their backs, but were not technically arrested. Before the convention, the city passed legislation allowing police to write the equivalent of traffic tickets instead of making criminal arrests for many nuisance crimes, such as disorderly conduct, blocking a street, and failure to disperse. During the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, a heavy police presence and fewer than expected protesters helped authorities maintain order. Only about two dozen arrests were made. In Philadelphia, the number of protesters also was much lower than expected. About 35,000 protesters each day were anticipated, but the turnout on Monday was put at about 5,500, and dwindled to 1,500 by Wednesday.