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Clinton secures Democratic nomination as thousands protest against her

Anti-Clinton Democrats express frustration about her nomination, showing clear divides within the party
The former first lady, senator and secretary of state took a monumental step on her quest to become American's first female president (AFP)

PHILADELPHIA, United States - Hillary Clinton became the first woman in history to win the White House nomination of a major US political party Tuesday, securing the backing of Democrats at a convention in Philadelphia.

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state took a monumental step on her quest to become American's first female president, by besting party challenger Bernie Sanders.

After a tumultuous convention opening which saw Sanders and Clinton supporters trade jeers and chants, Clinton passed the 2,382-delegate threshold needed for the nomination, setting up a showdown with Republican Donald Trump in November.

"History," said a post on her Twitter account.

Thousands of anti-Clinton protesters marched to Philadelphia City Hall on Tuesday to protest Clinton's victory.

At around 6pm local time, some of the demonstrators chanted in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, indifferent to Clinton's confirmation. There was a strong police presence surrounding the square and helicopters flew overhead.

Clinton supporters have been virtually absent from the streets of Philadelphia since the DNC began.

Previously, on Monday, the first day of convention, thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters chanted, “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!” on a long, 90-minute march from Philadelphia’s City Hall to Well’s Fargo Center in the muggy heat.

Bernie Sanders supporters chanted “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!” in Philadelphia (MEE/Yasmine Ryan)

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) began on the hottest day of a nationwide heat wave, a particular burden for those on the streets outside, far away from any air conditioning. Relief from the heat came from occasional onlookers offering to spray cool water onto grateful protesters' faces, or open fire hydrants dosing them with welcome mist.

At times, the protesters switched to: "What do we want?" "Justice!" "If we don't get it?" "Shut it down!" - a response to the leaked emails revealing that the Democratic Party leadership had worked to undermine Senator Sanders’ candidacy. There were many Green Party supporters among the marchers, and there were also chants of “Jill not Hill!” - referring to Green candidate Dr Jill Stein.

Ben Mayo, a 32-year-old African-American, drove up from Houston, Texas with a friend on Sunday night to show their support for the Vermont senator.

“I just wanted to speak out, to have a voice. [Sanders] believes in everyone coming together,” he said.

For Mayo, Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s is especially important. Mayo describes himself as an independent voter, to the left of the Democratic Party.

“He fought for us, we need to fight for him,” Mayo said.

While most of the thousands of Bernie supporters who have come to Philadelphia are in their 20s and 30s, some are old enough to have participated in the 1968 protests, when the party was shaken by a similar division. Tens of thousands of young protesters demonstrated against pro-war Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The perception that behind-the-scenes manipulation had helped him win the Democratic candidacy damaged Humphrey, and the Republican candidate Richard Nixon easily won the election.

Marie Adams, a 66-year-old grandmother from Boulder, Colorado, says she will be quitting the Democratic Party because former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate. She was also upset about the decision to make her Tim Kaine vice presidential running-mate, because of his positions on labour and his support for the banking sector.

“America’s middle class was built on unions after World War II,” she said.

“I’m 66, and I will not be intimidated to vote out of fear,” she said. “We have to stop being interventionist in other people’s countries. We need universal healthcare and a living wage.”

Marie Adams, 66, says she will be quitting the Democratic Party because Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate (MEE/Yasmine Ryan)

The disenchanted Sanders supporters drew sympathy from some unlikely passers by.

A Baptist Youth Group stood outside their church, watching the marchers, deaf to pleas from their instructor to go back inside.

As the march continued, a group of Trump supporters aged in their 40s were out walking their dog. They could not resist coming down to Broad Street to see what was going on.

“I’m not a Bernie supporter, but they’re 100 percent right,” Jim McAllister tells me, as his wife nods in agreement. “They were robbed. And why are they building a fence around the DNC but they don’t want to build a fence on the border [with Mexico]?”

In reality, there was little real hope of shutting down the DNC. The Wells Fargo Center had a high wall erected around its perimeter, a heavy police guard and helicopters flying overhead. A thunderstorm broke out right when Stein began a speech to the crowd of marchers, forcing all but the most devoted supporters to run for cover.

Inside the convention, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke passionately to progressives in rallying behind Clinton. Sanders also called on his supporters to move beyond personal politics and to recognise what the campaign had achieved in terms of pushing the Democratic platform to the left.

“This election is about – and must be about – the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty.”

Whether or not Clinton can win over his supporters remains uncertain, unless she can convince them that she really has listened. What is certain is that many remain fundamentally opposed to their perception of what she - and the Democratic Party as a whole - has come to represent, in an increasingly divided America.