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Bernie Sanders Supporters Drown Out Platform Chair’s DNC Speech

Delegates protest the TPP from the floor of the convention. CREDIT: KIRA LERNER
Delegates protest the TPP from the floor of the convention. CREDIT: KIRA LERNER

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — Loudly and angrily chanting “no TPP,” Bernie Sanders supporters drowned out Democratic National Convention platform chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) as he spoke on Monday night about the platform that he and many Democrats call the most progressive in history.

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fracking, supporters of Palestine, and others frustrated with portions of the Democratic platform — dozens of people in the Wells Fargo Arena — chanted together as Cummings spoke from the convention stage. Many of those same delegates later shouted “nay” when convention leaders put the platform up for a vote.

Sanders himself sent a message to delegates earlier on Monday pleading with them not to boo or otherwise broadcast their displeasure on the convention floor. “Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out, or similar displays,” he wrote. “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.”

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But many delegates did not heed his words. Some told ThinkProgress that Cummings didn’t include enough voices in the platform process, even though Sanders got to name five of the eleven members of the drafting committee.

“I didn’t like the way he treated Bernie,” Gilda Reed, a 68-year-old delegate from Louisiana told ThinkProgress, holding an anti-TPP sign.

Reed said she took issue with many aspects of the platform, calling it “orchestrated” and saying that Sanders supporters didn’t have enough influence.

“It could have been better,” she said. “Much better. Hillary claimed to be against TPP, but that’s changed. Even though she’s against it, they wouldn’t put it on the platform. They wouldn’t consider single-payer.”

“There’s a lot of things they wouldn’t hear,” she continued. “They threw a few crumbs out, but not enough.”

Florida delegate Ali Kurnaz, also a Sanders supporter, took issue with the platform’s stance on Israel and Palestine. During the platform vote, he stood in an aisle holding a Palestinian flag and yelling: “The DNC platform does not recognize the occupation of the Palestinian people.”

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He told ThinkProgress he would be voting down the platform because it makes no mention that Israel is “occupying the Palestinian territories.”

Ali Kurnaz protests the platform’s position on Palestine. CREDIT: Kira Lerner
Ali Kurnaz protests the platform’s position on Palestine. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

“I went to the platform committee meetings in Orlando and watched how the Hillary delegates back-to-back knocked down every single common-sense amendment,” Kurnaz said. “This unity platform is ridiculous… It is a disgrace and I reject this platform entirely.”

“If I were to be moved into that meeting blindfolded, I could not tell you if that was a Democratic platform committee meeting or a Republican platform committee meeting,” he continued.

Other Sanders supporters voted against the platform for environmental reasons. Victoria Bard, a single mother of three and a Colorado delegate, told ThinkProgress she couldn’t approve a platform that doesn’t explicitly ban fracking.

“They’re calling it the most progressive platform, and maybe there are some aspects that are progressive, but they have not addressed anything that is most relevant to this planet right now,” she said. “Pretty soon we’re going to run out of air to breathe and water to drink.”

Bard added that she has no confidence in Clinton as a presidential candidate. “We’re giving her the power to destroy this planet that we all share,” she said.

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Sanders supporters, many of whom booed the former candidate when he spoke of his Clinton endorsement earlier Monday, also called out in frustration at any mention of Clinton during the convention.

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But many Sanders supporters and delegates in Philadelphia are ready to embrace the Democratic nominee. Before the platform vote on Monday, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, who endorsed Sanders originally and campaigned for the Vermont senator, spoke about the document, calling it the “most progressive platform in the history of our party” — a claim that Sanders himself has made about the document.

Largely because of Sanders’ influence in the race, the Democratic platform has planks that are more progressive than previous iterations on the minimum wage, the death penalty, health care, and several other issues.

Maurice Simpson, a delegate from Prince George’s County, Maryland, agreed with Jealous and the thousands of other Clinton supporters who voted in favor of the platform. He said he was disappointed to hear fellow Democrats drown out Cummings’ speech.

“It’s the most progressive platform that our party has ever produced,” Simpson told ThinkProgress. “There was overwhelming support at the end of the day for the platform, and we as Democrats should be proud of the work we did to get it done.”