by Ariety Fried and Joseph Bullington
Deep in the pages of mainstream newspapers you may have read that around 100 Bernie Sanders delegates walked out of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday in protest of the roll-call vote that nominated Hillary Clinton. According to delegates who participated in the walkout the number was closer to 1000, representing about half the Sanders delegation and leaving large pockets of empty seats on the convention floor.
On Wednesday evening, about 10 of these delegates came to speak to the crowd of pro-Bernie protesters gathered outside the convention center in Franklin Roosevelt Park, where all week there has been a stage with live music and an Occupy DNC camp with about 50 tents. The delegates came to tell the Bernie or Busters what they had tried to tell reporters when they occupied the DNC media tent after the Tuesday walkout: what was actually going on inside and how they felt about it.
“We didn’t walk out because we didn’t want to have a voice; we already don’t have a voice,” said Gina, an Indiana delegate in her mid-twenties. “There’s nothing we can do in there. We can’t move motions. We don’t get to vote on anything.”
James Bannard, a Bernie delegate from Massachusetts, said that theWednesday vote on whether to nominate Tim Kaine for vice-president had been a bland formality. When the nomination was put to a voice vote on the convention floor there was a significant roar of “nay” voices, he said—mostly from Bernie delegations but also from Hillary supporters. However, the chairperson refused to hold a roll-call vote, and Tim Kaine delivered his planned acceptance speech a few hours later.
Delegates also said the DNC was stifling internal dissent and trying to hide it from the media.
After pro-Bernie delegates got rowdy on the floor the first day organizers informed them at breakfast on Tuesday that there had been a seating rearrangement, said Gina. “They sat us all together and none of us are in view of the camera for roll call so that everybody can hold up their Hillary signs.”
On Thursday the Guardian reported: “When a group of anti-war protesters interrupted a speech by former CIA director Leon Panetta – an early champion of Obama’s drone war strategy – the Democratic National Committee responded by turning off the lights in the section of the arena where they were sitting. As they were plunged into darkness and forced to use phones as torches, Clinton whips encouraged loyalists to chant “U-S-A, U-S-A” to drown out dissent – the same jingoistic tactic employed by Donald Trump.”
“The convention is a 4-day infomercial,” said Khalid Kamau, a Sanders delegate from Georgia and a Black Lives Matter activist. “The reason they fill our seats with seat-fillers when we walk out is because they want to give the illusion of unity to the rest of the country,” Kamau explained to the crowd of protesters. “But the Hillary delegates sitting in those seats know they are sitting next to actors. And they are concerned.”
Some of the delegates on the stage insisted that their absence from the convention hall had more power than their presence and said they would not go back in. Disgusted with the DNC they offered up their delegate credentials to anyone who wanted them, one man declaring the pass worthless before tossing it into the crowd.
Two desperate journalists, unable or unwilling to procure credentials by more traditional means, seized on the opportunity and made for the convention gates—armed for the first time with the access badges considered indispensable by most others in their line of work.
More to come.