By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of angry voters -- many of them Clinton campaign volunteers -- demonstrated outside the Democratic National Committee meeting today, demanding that the party's rules committee honor all the primary votes and pledged delegates from Florida and Michigan.
Arlene Faracchio, 73, and Myrtice Tomkins, 62, both decked out in t-shirts emblazoned with "Florida Demands Representation," took an overnight bus ride from Jacksonville to voice their displeasure.
"They might as well just chop Florida off the map," huffed Tomkins, who lives in Madison County, Florida. "They don't claim us anyway. They are destroying the Democratic Party."
Many said the controversy reminded them of the controversial 2000 presidential election, when the US Supreme Court halted a recount in four Florida counties and the presidency went to George W. Bush.
"Aside from wanting my candidate to win, voices need to be heard," said Chantal, 31, who came with a group of Clinton volunteers from Boston and asked that her last name not be used because she is a government employee. "We complained and moaned and groaned in 2000 that people were disenfranchised and we are willing do the same thing."
She said she believes the national party has been so unfair to her candidate that she recently changed her party registration to independent.
Other demonstrators, who gathered after dawn in a nearby park and later marched to the main entrance of the hotel, carried signs such as "Redo Michigan," "I'm not half a voter," and "People died for our right to vote." Another placard depicted Uncle Sam, in a spin-off of the signature military recruiting poster, demanding "Count Our Votes."
The demonstration -- which was cosponsored by the groups Count Every Vote and the WomenCount PAC and included several high-profile Clinton supporters -- was peaceful and even festive at times, with participants dancing to a pro-Clinton Chaka Khan song.
But the vitriol of the hard-core Clinton supporters was also fully on display. One poster depicted DNC chairman Howard Dean whipping Florida and Michigan voters over the words, "At least slaves were counted as three-fifths of a citizen."
Others saved their harshest words for Obama.
"He acts as a uniter but he is a divider," said Lynette Long, 60, from Washington, DC.
Like many demonstrators yesterday, she said she would support the Republican candidate, John McCain, rather than vote for Obama if he becomes the party's candidate.
But not all Clinton supporters who advocated fully counting Florida and Michigan were ready to go that far. Taylor Marsh, a pro-Clinton blogger who urged Democrats last week to participate in yesterday's demonstration, said in an interview that she remains a "strong supporter" of Clinton, but "I'm a Democrat and I will work hard against a McCain presidency. I think a Democrat has to win in November. Period."
The few Obama supporters who were peppered throughout the crowd yesterday said they came to spread that message of party unity.
"I want to reach out to Hillary supporters," said LaShanda Jackson, 29, of Maryland, camped outside the hotel lobby wearing her Obama '08 t-shirt.
Clayton Whitt, 26, of Washington, stood on the street amid the chanting Clinton supporters wearing an Obama button and holding a sign reminding fellow Democrats that "it is time to focus on defeating John McCain."
"I am afraid they are going to tear the party apart," he motioned toward the demonstrators.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.