Death threats against state Democratic Party official draw rebuke


Christopher DeVargas

Bernie Sanders supporters hold signs during the state Democratic Party convention at Paris Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Saturday May 14, 2016.

Mon, May 16, 2016 (6 p.m.)

The fallout from the divisive, raucous Nevada Democratic convention this weekend continued on Monday, with politicians, candidates, and the state party stepping in to condemn the behavior of some Bernie Sanders supporters in the convention’s wake, including death threats made against the state party’s chairwoman.

The frustrations among some in the Sanders camp with the state Democratic Party and its convention process began well before the convention was called to order on Saturday. Some Sanders supporters had been raising concerns over the convention’s temporary rules through an online petition and a handful of them had even sued the state party over a deadline to file for party office.

The sentiments came to the fore early Saturday morning during two votes of the convention — one to accept a preliminary delegate report showing Hillary Clinton with a delegate lead and a second to adopt the convention’s temporary rules — called by the party’s chairwoman, Roberta Lange. Several Sanders supporters had been raising concerns about Lange’s neutrality in the days leading up to the convention.

After the votes, Sanders supporters flooded the space in front of the stage where party officials sat, some of them hurling a host of epithets specifically at Lange and the party's vice chairman, Chris Wicker.

Tensions flared again later in the day, when the results of the final delegate report were announced showing a 33-delegate lead in Clinton’s favor in the early evening. Some Sanders supporters countered that 64 of their delegates had been inappropriately disqualified, though the state party says only 58 were actually denied delegate or alternate status because they or their records could not be located or they were not registered Democrats by the May 1 deadline.

When the convention was brought to a close at 10 p.m. after representatives from the Paris hotel informed the state party that they could no longer provide the necessary security for the event, some Sanders supporters reportedly stormed the stage, yelled and threw chairs.

The following day, some Sanders supporters staged a protest outside of the state party’s offices where they wrote on the building, “you are scum” and “fire Roberta.”

Lange’s cellphone number and other personal contact information were subsequently leaked online, and state party officials say she has received thousands of death threats, threats of violence, and misogynistic insults since.

One of the text messages to Lange said, “Praying to god someone shoots you in the FACE and blows your democracy-stealing head off!”

“Our chairwoman had to be given a security detail throughout Saturday just to be able to move around the room and go to the bathroom safely,” the party said in a detailed statement online. “Our office was vandalized by protesters with hateful insults. This activity is beyond the pale.”

Local police have said they are looking into the threats made against Lange and other state Democratic officials.

In the detailed statement, posted online through Medium, the state party also tried to explain the delegate math that had confused and upset many of Sanders’ supporters.

The state party called attention to the convention's disruption in a letter to the co-chairs of the DNC Rules and By-laws committee, alleging that the "explosive situation arose in large part because a portion of the community of Sanders delegates arrived at the Nevada Democratic State Convention believing itself to be a vanguard intent upon sparking a street-fight rather than attending an orderly political party process."

The evening before the convention, Sanders had emphasized in a statement the importance of respect to his supporters who would be attending the convention.

“We share a commitment to electing progressive Democrats up-and-down the ballot in Nevada and across the country and are committed to soundly defeating Donald Trump and the right-wing Republican agenda,” Sanders said. “Working together respectfully and constructively on Saturday at the Nevada Democratic convention will move us closer to those essential goals.”

But in the wake of the convention, Sanders and his campaign had remained mum in their reactions to the convention until Monday afternoon.

In an interview Monday evening, Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, called the tension at Saturday’s convention “unfortunate” and condemned the threats of violence that have been made against Lange.

“Certainly people have a right to protest and exercise their First Amendment rights,” Briggs said. “I hope it’s clear to everybody that we in no way condone violence or even the threats of violence. The senator’s statements (on Friday) laid out his hopes that this could all be conducted in a civil manner and a respectful manner.”

Briggs added that the campaign was taking a look at the results of the Nevada convention and that no decision has been made about “what, if anything, to do.”

One of Sanders’ most vocal backers in Nevada, congressional candidate and former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, said in a statement on Monday that some of the reactions to the convention had “clearly crossed the line.”

“Progressives need to speak out against those making threats against someone’s life, defacing private property, and hurling vulgar language at our female leaders,” Flores said. “Regardless of whether you agree with the leadership of our Chairwoman Roberta Lange, under no circumstances do her actions warrant being harassed, insulted with misogynistic vulgarities and or threatened in any way.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has endorsed Clinton, said in an interview with CNN on Monday that he didn’t think that Sanders would approve of the behavior of some of his supporters over the weekend.

“I’ve been dealing with Nevada state conventions for 50 years: To say I was disappointed was an understatement,” Reid said. “I hold his people accountable, and I’m sure if Bernie found out about it, he would not accept what happened there.”

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