Democrats opened their virtual convention Monday and worked to build excitement during the 2020 presidential election season for the newly announced ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. With Monday’s theme being “We the People,” many of the remarks focused on messages of inclusion, unity and working together to remove President Donald Trump from office.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, former FLOTUS Michelle Obama and relatives of Eric Garner and George Floyd highlighted the first night of the convention. Several Black speakers stressed the importance of police reform and rebuked the actions of Trump during his presidency.
Here are six highlights from the Democratic National Convention’s opening night of programming:
1. Rep. Gwen Moore welcomes the convention to her city
Rep. Gwen Moore welcomed voters and her peers to the convention Monday, an opportunity she said she was honored to have despite the convention not happening in its original destination of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today, we gather virtually. However, we gather unified in spirit, unified in our values and purpose to heal divisions and together move the nation confidently into a prosperous, inclusive future,” she said.
Moore, speaking from the second floor of the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee where the event was supposed to be held, gave a passionate address uplifting Biden and his running mate, Harris.
"What better way to gather than all across America to nominate my beloved friend Joe Biden to be the 46th president of the United States of America, with my VIP, VP nominee sista Kamala Harris by his side," she said.
Even though she feels it took a lot of effort to change plans seemingly overnight, Moore said future conventions could retain virtual elements, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
2. D.C. mayor calls for Americans to come together against Trump
In an address filmed in front of Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C., Bowser excoriated Trump for “plotting” while many Americans were busy protesting social injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Bowser criticized Trump for his response to protests, condemning him for removing peaceful protesters near the White House so he could participate in a photo shoot in front of a St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“While we were peacefully protesting, Donald Trump was plotting. He stood in front of one of our most treasured houses of worship and held a Bible for a photo-op. He sent troops in camouflage into our streets, he sent tear gas into the air and federal helicopters too,” she said.
The mayor said she curated BLM Plaza for all the Black and brown residents of the city who have experienced injustice and for those who still believe in justice. Bowser called on “every one of us” to challenge our biases and elect the candidate who will work to unravel systemic racism.
“And by coming together this November to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we will say next. Because we can't just paint those words behind me, we can't just say those words. We have to live those words. We have to undo the laws and systems that have codified racism for far too long. But we have to do something too. Each and every one of us, challenge our own biases. If we see something, do something. Together we can turn this reckoning into a reimagining of a nation where we the people means all the people," Bowser said.
In the closing of her address, Bowser introduced members of Floyd's family, who recalled his giving spirit before leading a moment of silence.
3. A moment of silence is had for George Floyd
The brothers of George Floyd — a Black man who died in May after being suffocated by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — held a moment of silence in honor of their brother and other victims of police brutality.
Philonise Floyd, who was accompanied by brother Rodney, spoke about George’s selflessness and giving spirit. He read a list of fellow Black people killed by police and racist violence that included Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson and Ahmaud Arbery and asked that we never forget their names.
"Please join me in a moment of silence to honor George and the many other souls we’ve lost to hate and injustice. And when this moment ends, let’s make sure we never stop saying their names," he said.
Philonise asked people who support his brother’s legacy to stay vigilant against injustice and keep up the fight for those who don’t make news headlines.
"So it’s up to us to carry on the fight for justice. Our actions will be their legacies. We must always find ourselves in what John Lewis called 'good trouble.' For the names we do not know, the faces we will never see, those we can’t mourn because their murders didn’t go viral," Philonise said.
4. Eric Garner's mom calls for Biden to continue to endorse police reform if he's elected president
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, called for Biden to uphold the fight against police brutality if he wins the presidency.
"When my son was murdered, there was a big uprising, but then it settled down," Carr said. "We can't let things settle down. We have to go to the politicians, and we have to hold their feet to the fire. Because otherwise, the big uprising is not going to mean a lot."
5. South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn doubles down on his support of Biden
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black congressman, endorsed Biden Monday as the right man and leader for our country.
“Joe Biden is as good a man as he is a leader,” Clyburn said in a speech that focused on racial justice, adding that the country needs "a president who understands both profound loss and what it takes to bounce back."
In February, Clyburn endorsed Biden ahead of the South Carolina primary and helped him win the state, CNN reports. He told fellow South Carolinians Biden was the candidate who understood them and that they could trust his campaign.
"I know his heart. I know who he is. I know what he is. I know where this country is: We are at an inflection point," he said. "I am fearful for the future of this country. I'm fearful for my daughters and their future, and their children and their children's future."
6. Michelle Obama bashes Trump's efforts in Monday's final address
Obama, the first night’s final speaker, spelled out a number of shortcomings the Trump administration has had in the last four years. She blasted him for his immigration policies, the support he receives from white nationalist groups and how he has run the country during a period of civil unrest.
The former first lady then challenged voters to hold themselves to a higher standard.
“As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are — it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too,” she said. “And four years ago, too many people chose to believe that their votes didn’t matter. Maybe they were fed up. Maybe they thought the outcome wouldn’t be close. Maybe the barriers felt too steep. Whatever the reason, in the end, those choices sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes.”
Despite heavy attacks on former President Barack Obama's administration, Michelle said it’s more important than ever that we go high when others go low.
"A lot of people have asked me, 'When others are going so low, does going high still really work?' My answer: Going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that's drowning out everything else,” she said.
Michelle underscored her belief that Trump is the wrong choice for president, saying “he cannot meet this moment.”
“So, let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she said. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
According to CNN, an aide said Michelle felt compelled to deliver the address even though she shies away from politics at this point in her life.
Despite her political aversion, Michelle is a proud advocate of civil participation. On Monday, viewers may have caught a glimpse of her “Vote” necklace as she delivered her remarks. With Michelle condemning Trump and encouraging people to use their power to take action, the necklace was a powerful reminder of what the Harvard Law grad stands for.