What Exactly Did Sanders Supporters Do At The Nevada Dem Convention?

AP

The chaos at Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Convention in Las Vegas has became a potent symbol for the schism that continues to rile the party, as Hillary Clinton — who is likely to win the nomination in the weeks to come — attempts to unify Bernie Sanders supporters behind her for a general election showdown against Donald Trump.

The themes that have roiled the Democratic primary came to a head at various points during the day, with Sanders supporters revolting at what they perceived to be power moves against them. Since then, the Sanders campaign has rebutted the reports of violence while insisting Saturday’s frustrations were just another example of an election being “rigged” against the Democratic socialist.

While there remains considerable dispute over what exactly transpired Saturday, it didn’t happen under the media radar. A reasonably definitive understanding of events can be pieced together from contemporaneous local news reports and videos posted to social media, as well as subsequent reporting after the fact. What emerges is a picture of yelling, unrest and disruption from Sanders supporters outraged over what they perceived as unfair treatment by the party and reportedly urged on by Sanders operatives. Ultimately, the Democratic official who was tasked to lead the convention has, in its wake, been on the receiving end of threatening voicemails and texts messages.

There’s no doubt that the ruckus Saturday was propelled by the Sanders campaign’s attempt to make up the lead Clinton had in Nevada delegates after her February caucus win by trying to out-mobilize her in the county-level conventions that would pick delegates for the state convention. There, the state-level delegates would chose national delegates who would go to Philadelphia in July for the Democratic convention, and there was a possibility that the Sanders campaign could pick up a few more spots.

Despite the Sanders’ campaign efforts, the Clinton campaign showed up with slightly more supporters at the Paris Hotel and Casino Saturday. They were enough to overpower the Sanders supporters in the voice votes over party mechanics, while the Sanders folk believed the Democratic establishment was shutting them out of the process.

As Jon Ralston, a well-regarded local politics reporter, described it: “What happened at the Paris Hotel was worse than any New Year’s Eve bacchanal on the Las Vegas Strip, but just as uncontrollable: It was a group of delegates, stirred up by Sanders operatives, determined that the deck was stacked against them and they were going to be cheated.”

There has been disagreement between Sanders supporters and those critical of their behavior Saturday over how violent the state convention actually was, and who is to blame. Descriptions of the days events’ recount shouting, interruptions, crude names and epithets being lobbed at party officials, and an evening that culminated in a group of Sanders backers rushing towards the stage and even flipping chairs. Only some of those incidents could be backed up by video evidence posted by those at Saturday’s convention and other reports.

Nevada Democratic Party chair Roberta Lange was called a “fucking bitch” and other derogatory names for moving forward with the day’s motions, while screams of “who gives a shit” rattled the convention hall during a keynote speech by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). There were a few small scuffles that brought security and medics to the scene, and at the end of the night, some Sanders supporters did pack around the stage, angry the day had been adjourned, as the convention organizers tried to clear out the room. At least one reporter observed chair flipping, though video evidence of such has been harder to pin down.

Beyond the flash points that some are warning are a precursor of what could be trouble at the national convention, here is how the day devolved into chaos:

Their frustration boiled over early on in the day when Nevada Democratic Party chair Roberta Lange called a voice vote to make permanent temporary rules that Sanders supporters believed were tilted to favor Clinton. Around the same time, a preliminary count of the delegates showed Clinton in the lead, prompting Sanders supporters to demand a recount.

As party officials attempted to move along with the convention’s scheduled, the anger of the Sanders supporters lingered. They booed a speech by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a Clinton supporter.

She countered them with, “When you boo me, you’re booing Bernie Sanders,” but ultimately cut her speech off early.

The Clinton supporters, meanwhile, expressed frustration of their own that the program was running behind schedule because of the constant disruptions by the Sanders partisans.

Medics were also called after some a scuffling broke out by the dais in the front of the convention hall.

The tensions were further inflamed by the allegations of Sanders activists that the state party had blocked the credentialing of 64 delegates — enough to have given Sanders the lead in the state delegate count. The party said most of these delegates had failed to meet the registration requirements, such as being registered as a Democrat, and that only eight had showed up Saturday to make the case they should be allowed to participate. Six Sanders delegates were eventually credentialed, and the decision not to credential the rest came from a panel evenly split between Sanders and Clinton supporters that also blocked the credentials of eight Clinton delegates.

Nonetheless, one of the Sanders representatives on the credentialing panel took the stage to read a “minority report” that repeated the claims that the Sanders delegates had been shut out, and the speech further riled the crowd.

Upset by the feeling that the establishment was against them, Sanders supporters continued to disrupt the convention’s proceedings. They roiled the voice votes during the ratification of the state party platform and ironically voted against planks that Sanders is in favor of, according to a Clinton supporter on Twitter.

The evening ended with Lange adjourning the convention through a voice vote, a move Sanders supporters again perceived to be unfair. As she scurried off the stage, a security guard in tow, some Sanders supporters crowded at the front of the room, calling Lange a “fucking bitch” and chanting “Bernie or bust.”

According to the state party, hotel officials told the convention organizers they needed to clear the room out as the event was already running past the contracted time with the hotel, and it would no longer provide security.

In his statement addressing the convention, Sanders condemned violence generally, but said the reports of it happening at his campaign’s bidding were “nonsense.” One of his delegates, Angie Morelli, suggested on MSNBC Tuesday night that alcohol could have inflamed passions the convention, while denying that Sanders supporters acted violently.

“We had 4,000 of the most passionate people in this valley, who got in a room together. You put them in this confined space for 15-plus hours, who had little access to food, had three bars outside the convention center put out there for us,” she said.

According to a CNN report, a top Sanders campaign official had encouraged his supporters at a meeting prior to the convention to “take over” the proceedings.

“You should not leave,” Joan Kato, the national delegates director, said in audio surfaced by CNN. “I’m going to repeat that, unless you are told by someone from the campaign … that you can leave, you should not leave.”

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