On the final night of the DNC, Sanders delegates from Oregon and California walked out of the Well Fargo Arena as Hillary Clinton gave her speech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for the 2016 presidential race.
by BROOKLYN DIPPO and JENNIFER GIVENS
PHILADELPHIA (Talk Media News) – After a week of feeling silenced, Bernie Sanders delegates decided Thursday that empty seats would send a louder message than any chants or banners.
On the final night of the DNC, some of Sanders delegates from Oregon, Washington State and California walked out of the Wells Fargo Center as Hillary Clinton gave her speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2016 presidential race.
Leading up to Clinton’s speech, Sanders delegates organized the walk-out through social media and messaging apps. Shawn Orgel-Olson, a 29-year-old Sanders delegate from California, said Sanders delegates were abused during the DNC this past week.
“We just had a few problems with some of [Clinton’s] volunteers or whips being aggressive toward our delegations,” Orgel-Olson said. “Verbal harassment, swearing at them, or pushing them.”
On the final day of the convention, Clinton delegates used different tactics to overshadow Sanders delegates, he said.
“When we came into the hall today, a significant amount of the seats in our delegation section were taped off by Hillary whips who were let in before Bernie whips. They were able to take the whole lower section of our seating,” Orgel-Olson said. “They are trying to have a different optic, visual. They wanted Hillary signs in front of our signs.”
Sanders’ delegates stood out in the crowd wearing neon yellow shirts that read: “Enough is enough.”
Tiffany Graves, an Oklahoma delegate, changed out of her yellow shirt in the bathroom when she felt the tone change from solidarity with Bernie to hostility toward Clinton.
“I [took off my shirt] because of the protestors. I don’t want to be associated with it,” Graves said. “It’s just kind of a showing of solidarity and now it’s turning into something else for some of the delegates, not all but some. Tonight there were protesters mainly California delegation screaming ‘no more war’ and people were drowning that out with ‘U.S.A.’ A lot of people trying to cover up the protest signs.”
Security was prepared for the worst as Sanders delegates trickled out of the arena while Clinton was speaking. By the end, more than three-dozen protestors from Oregon and California delegations followed through.
The delegates who did leave during Clinton’s speech didn’t leave immediately; they stopped to talk to media outlets in the hallway. Amongst the crowd it seemed evenly split between people who walked out with a firm understanding of why they were protesting and those who didn’t have a clear message.
Noah Teller, a 24-year-old delegate from California, walked out in his Bernie shirt with a Jill Stein sign in hand.
“I’m jumping to the Green Party because we think that this election was essentially a sham,” Teller said. “It’s important to demonstrate to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world that we don’t accept this system. If you sabotage our democracy you can’t earn our votes.”
A long-time Jill Stein supporter and Louisiana Sanders delegate, Ryan Trundle, stumbled upon the protestors in the hallway. He himself had a Green Party shirt on and a matching green beard and voted for Stein in the 2012 presidential election.
“I still support Bernie, he has done great things, but he is not running anymore,” Trundle said. “There’s cameras pointed at [the protestors] but I don’t know how well they’re getting their point across. I think the awareness is good.”
Sanders supporter Bryan McAleer watched Clinton’s speech on a TV as the protestors started walking out. He disagreed with the walk-out and plans to support the candidate that Sanders has endorsed.
“I want to support the party that I believe in,” McAleer said. “Even though I disagree strongly on a lot of things Hillary Clinton stands for, I find that a middle ground is better than no ground at all.”
Those who walked out did not agree with Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, even as a strategy to prevent a Trump presidency. Oregon delegate Alex Mel Josephy doesn’t buy into the idea that he has to choose the lesser of two evils.
“I’m not saying that Trump isn’t worse, but that is the exact mindset that smothers the progressive movement,” Josephy said. “I mean, if you look at the Tea Party, they were smart enough to learn that if they stake their claim and they say ‘no, you give us concessions or you don’t get our votes and you will loose the general election.’ I think the progressives need to be smart like that.”
The protestors were not exclusively upset with the DNC either. Many of them felt betrayed by the media and prefer networking with each other for information. California delegate Martha Medrano insisted on live streaming through the convention but spoke with mainstream media during the walk out.
“We are not the generation that listens to the mass media and trusts it blindly. I don’t even watch the news because I don’t listen to the bullsh*t that comes out because it’s all spun in favor of a story they want us to buy,” Medrano said.
With anger toward the media, the DNC, and Hillary Clinton there was no unified stance on what exactly the walk out aimed to resolve.