Election 2020

Bernie: 'Nonsense' to Call Supporters Violent After Nevada Convention Chaos

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gather in the front of the room during the Nevada State Democratic Party’'s 2016 State Convention at the Paris hotel-casino in Las Vegas on May 14, 2016. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) condemned threats that avowed supporters of his made in connection with last weekend’s Nevada Democratic Convention — but stressed that violence has also been directed at his campaign and his supporters have not been treated “with fairness and the respect that they have earned.”

Sanders’ supporters accused the party elite of rigging the rules at the Paris Hotel event in Las Vegas. They also accuse the state party of counting delegates half an hour early while Bernie backers were still waiting in line to get in.

The party said Sanders had 2,124 delegate slots to the convention and Hillary Clinton had 1,722 delegate slots, but Clinton only had 27 delegate positions vacant on Saturday while Sanders left 462 vacant — giving Hillary a 33-delegate victory. They alleged that most of the 64 potential delegates for Sanders who were disputed and not seated were in some way ineligible.

The convention erupted into a melee with chairs thrown and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) arguing with Sanders supporters who booed her speech.

Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange said she has been getting death threats. “I just wanted to let you know that I think people like you should be hung [sic] in a public execution to show this world that we won’t stand for this sort of corruption,” says the caller on one voicemail left for Lange and posted online by political reporter Jon Ralston. The caller left his phone number.

In a lengthy statement today, Sanders said “the Democratic Party has a choice.”

“It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet,” he said. “Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.”

Of the Nevada party’s claim that the Sanders camp had a “penchant for violence,” Bernie called the charge “nonsense.”

“Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence. Our campaign of course believes in nonviolent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals,” Sanders said. “But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.”

“If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned. I am happy to say that has been the case at state conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii where good discussions were held and democratic decisions were reached. Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention.”

Sanders slammed the state party for moving ahead with rules approval on a voice vote instead of a head count “when the vote was a clear ‘no’ vote” and for excluding most of the 64 disputed delegates without giving them a chance to make their case.

He also faulted Lange for refusing “to acknowledge any motions made from the floor or allow votes on them” or hearing any amendments to the rules.

“These are on top of failures at the precinct and county conventions including trying to depose and then threaten with arrest the Clark County convention credentials chair because she was operating too fairly,” Sanders added.

The Nevada party filed a complaint with the Democratic National Committee. “We believe, unfortunately, that the tactics and behavior on display here in Nevada are harbingers of things to come as Democrats gather in Philadelphia in July for our National Convention,” states the letter. “We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sander Campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior—indeed, actual violence—in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.”

The party called a contingent of Sanders delegates “vanguard intent upon sparking a street-fight rather than attending an orderly political party process.”

“Scuffles, screams from bullhorns, and profane insults marked nearly the entirety of the event,” continues the complaint, noting harassment of “universally respected” Sen. Boxer.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said today she’s “deeply concerned about the troubling details” in the Nevada Dems’ letter.

“We will be reaching out to the leadership of both of our campaigns to ask them to stand with the Democratic Party in denouncing and taking steps to prevent the type of behavior on display over the weekend in Las Vegas. Our democracy is undermined any time threats, intimidation, physical violence or damage to property are present. If there are legitimate concerns, they must be addressed in an orderly, civil and peaceful manner,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement issued by the DNC.

“…The process for nominating a Democratic Presidential candidate is not something taken lightly, it is a four-year endeavor that is closely scrutinized and determined in public forums, just as it has been in past election cycles. There is no excuse for what happened in Nevada, and it is incumbent upon all of us in positions of leadership to speak out.”