Bernie Sanders fires back as Nevada Democrats warn of possible violence at national convention

CARSON CITY — Bitterness over the Nevada Democratic convention festered Tuesday with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders blaming the state party for “preventing a fair” process and national party leaders denouncing the chaos that marred the weekend convention in Las Vegas.

State party leaders, meanwhile, accused Sanders of “continuing to be dishonest” about what took place when Nevada Democrats convened to select delegates for the national convention, to be held in July in Philadelphia.

“Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization,” Sanders said in a statement. “Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’

“That is nonsense,” he said.

The U.S. senator from Vermont said his presidential campaign “believes in non-violent change” and he condemns “any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.”

But Sanders called out the Nevada Democratic Party for its handling of the convention, saying party leadership “used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”

Sanders’ response came a day after the Nevada Democratic Party filed a complaint against his campaign and warned the Democratic National Committee about possible violence at the national convention following a raucous state convention in Las Vegas and death threats against the state party chairwoman.

“We write you to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior — indeed, actual violence — in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats,” Bradley Schrager, general counsel for the Nevada State Democratic Party, wrote in a complaint filed late Monday.

State party leaders were not mollified by Sanders’ response, charging that the campaign “continues to lie about what happened” and has “failed to denounce the tactics and actions of their staff and supporters.”

On Tuesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the party is “deeply concerned about the troubling details” noted in the complaint.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters in Washington, D.C., that he spoke with Sanders “to make sure he understands, that he’s heard what went on there.”.

“This is a test of leadership, as we all know, and I’m hopeful and very confident that Sen. Sanders will do the right thing,” Reid said.

Security and police Saturday night shut down the state convention at the Paris Las Vegas after Sanders supporters clashed with state Chairwoman Roberta Lange and party leadership in disputes over procedural matters and the seating of delegates. Chairs were thrown and obscenities hurled before the convention was halted.

Hillary Clinton won Nevada’s February caucus, 53 percent to 47 percent. But Sanders supporters have been trying to eek out more delegates from county and state conventions.

Sanders supporters complained 64 of their people weren’t allowed to be seated at the state convention, but party leaders said many didn’t meet eligibility requirements. Six were ultimately seated. Eight Clinton backers also were denied seating.

“The rules governing the Democratic Party delegate selection process have been in place for decades and the specific procedures for this cycle were agreed upon in 2014,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “In Nevada on Saturday, the state party’s credentials committee was made up of an equal number of members representing both campaigns.”

She said the presidential nominating process is a four-year endeavor that is closely scrutinized in public forums.

“There is no excuse for what happened in Nevada, and it is incumbent upon all of us in positions of leadership to speak out,” Wasserman Schultz said.

As the convention Saturday ran into the evening, tensions mounted.

“Scuffles, screams from bullhorns, and profane insults marked nearly the entirety of the event,” Schrager wrote in the complaint.

Around 10 p.m. Saturday, hotel officials ordered the convention to disperse because they were unable to provide security given the “unruly and unpredictable” behavior.

Lange has received hundreds of threatening emails and voice messages after her cellphone number and home address were posted online, state party officials said.

On Sunday, Sanders supporters protested outside Democratic Party headquarters in Las Vegas, defacing the walls and sidewalk with menacing messages in chalk.

Schrager, in his complaint, said those who “fostered, encouraged, and gained from the unsettling scenes” at the state convention “bring dishonor and discredit to our state and national parties.

“Having seen up close the lack of conscience or concern for the ramifications of their actions — indeed the glee with which they engaged in such destructive behavior — we expected similar tactics at the National Convention in July,” Schrager warned.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Find @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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