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Ahead Of Planned Walkout, Sanders Delegates Face Threats, Intimidation

Bernie Sanders delegates planning to walk out at the Democratic convention this week are facing intimidation and threats from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

The Democratic convention got off to a rough start Monday afternoon, with an eruption of boos and chants from Sanders delegates on the convention floor against Clinton.

Shadowproof spoke with several Sanders delegates from across the country who are organizing the walkout.

The general sentiment is they are sick of being silenced, they’re tired of being ignored, and they’re done being taken for granted by a party that continues to betray them.

One delegate, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, described the situation as “overt hostility by state parties towards Sanders delegates, attempts to control our speech, telling us to be quiet, to behave, to be good Democrats.”

“We’ve been threatened with having our credentials pulled by state parties,” said 66-year-old Washington state delegate Pam Keeley. Nonetheless, outrage against the party is so strong that “Sanders can’t contain it,” she observed.

Asked if she supported Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, Keeley responded, “We love you Bernie, but no.”

The Washington state delegation is a hotbed for protest against the Democratic establishment. On Monday night, delegates chanted in protest at nearly every reference to Clinton on the convention floor.

Whenever chants broke out, state party and DNC representatives would rush in to discipline Sanders delegates, even confiscating their pro-Sanders signs as punishment.

Sherwood expressed support for the walkout, but only if a good number of people participate. Otherwise it won’t be worth the backlash.

The Sanders campaign is trying to put a stop to these protests as well, particularly the walkout, said 32-year-old Nina Sherwood.

“Some [Bernie delegates] are saying it’s not going to be productive and Bernie is going to lose his voice in the convention if we walk out,” said Sherwood, who plans to participate “if more people do it.”

A Sanders delegate from Connecticut, Sherwood has been voting Democrat for over a decade, but will likely break that pattern in November.

“For the most part, everybody I’ve talked to is rabidly against Hillary Clinton,” she said, adding, “as of right now I’m voting for Jill Stein. Hillary Clinton has to earn my vote and she hasn’t done that.”

“If she gives a speech about Trump, that won’t cut it,” Sherwood said. “I already know Trump’s bad. She needs to give me a reason to stand with her.”

Dissent for Palestine

Support for Palestinian rights featured prominently among the dissenting delegates.

Ali Akın Kurnaz, a Sanders delegate from Florida, unfurled a Palestinian flag during the initial outbreak of protests on the convention floor on Monday.

He pushed back against those who criticized his action.

Showdown continues

The protests continued into Tuesday morning, with California delegates booing and shouting down pro-Clinton speakers at their delegation breakfast.

Majid Al-Bahadli, the chair of the Sanders Washington delegation, plans to walkout.

“Bernie is a beautiful person and he’s lit the light in our hearts,” said Al-Bahadli, a former political prisoner in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. “But I can’t support Clinton.”

Al-Bahadli worked on Obama’s campaign in 2008 and 2012. During the 2012 convention, he was one of the delegates who shouted in protest as the Democratic establishment insisted on inserting language into the party platform recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, against the will of the delegates.

“Do not blame us if [Clinton] loses,” said Al-Bahadli, arguing that the party is choosing to nominate a weak candidate.

An internal email obtained by Shadowproof shows the Sanders campaign urging delegates to refrain from engaging in such protest.

“Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out or other similar displays. That’s what the corporate media wants. That’s what Donald Trump wants. But that’s not what will expand the progressive movement in this country,” states the email.

Signed by Bernie Sanders, the email adds, “I would ask you as a personal courtesy to me to not engage in any kind of protest or demonstration on the convention floor.”

The Sanders campaign also cancelled all remaining delegate workshops taking place at the convention, citing “logistical problems.”

A clear split has emerged within the Sanders camp. A large slice of delegates want to demonstrate their outrage against the Democratic Party and Clinton, who they see as a corrupt corporate stooge and a war hawk. In turn, Sanders’ more high-ranking surrogates and delegates, who advocate unity above all else, have joined with the Clinton campaign and the DNC in policing dissent.

Nonetheless, many Sanders delegates remain indignant.

For more, read Kevin Gosztola’s “‘Democracy Is Messy’: Sanders Changes Tune On Protest At Democratic Convention”

Bernie Sanders speaks on the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by disneyabc on Flickr.
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Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an associate editor at the Electronic Intifada and co-host of the weekly podcast Unauthorized Disclosure. Her work has appeared at Al Jazeera, The Nation, Salon, Truthout, FAIR, Vice, AlterNet, and more.