weather icon Clear

Nevada Democratic convention ends with security concerns, upset Sanders supporters

The Nevada State Democratic Party ended its state convention late Saturday amid security concerns about unruliness, the state party said Sunday.

The state convention heated up Saturday night as supporters of presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., became upset over procedural issues and the delegate seating process.

The convention’s main purpose was to pick delegates who will go in July to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In the state’s Feb. 20 Democratic presidential caucuses, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat Sanders.

Saturday’s event ended at 10 p.m. at Paris Las Vegas, three hours after its scheduled end time, after the hotel-casino’s security director told party and campaign officials that “the property could no longer provide the necessary security under conditions made unruly and unpredictable,” the Nevada State Democratic Party said, adding that the hotel-casino had requested a “prompt conclusion.”

Unrest continued after the convention. A protest unfolded Sunday outside the Nevada State Democratic Party’s headquarters, at 6233 Dean Martin Drive in Las Vegas, where, the state party said in a statement, Sanders backers defaced the building’s exterior walls. A report was filed with the Metropolitan Police Department.

Some of the graffiti was aimed at state party Chairwoman Roberta Lange, who presided over Saturday’s convention.

“Fire Roberta,” said one message scrawled in sidewalk chalk on the wall next to the party’s door. Another message said: “#FREETHE64,” a reference to a dispute over 64 Sanders supporters who didn’t qualify to be delegates at the convention.

The party called the issue a “false controversy” created by Sanders national staff members who were at the convention to incite an uproar.

Party officials have said those people didn’t meet the criteria for various reasons, including not registering as Democrats by a deadline, or having incomplete or wrong information on file and not responding to prior requests to correct it. Eight potential delegates for Clinton also were turned away.

Separately, the state party said Lange’s cellphone number was posted on social media, and she received thousands of text messages, phone calls and emails, including death threats.

The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Saturday’s event ended with Lange accepting a motion to appoint delegates preapproved by the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, organizers said. She also accepted a motion to elect the state central committee according to rules submitted by county party chairs.

A security guard went with Lange off the stage and stayed with her because of the rising unruliness.

At one point, police officers stood at the front of the stage, and lights were dimmed to encourage protesting convention attendees to leave, according to attendees and YouTube video posted on social media.

Sanders supporters had conflicts with party leaders before the convention, too. They had sued the state party and lost in court Friday after alleging that deadlines were improperly changed to prevent some from running for party leadership posts.

“We were just trying to force the democratic process,” said Angie Morelli, an attendee elected to be a national delegate representing Sanders. “This party is supposed to be the party of unity and inclusion.”

Morelli criticized how the event was handled. “That’s not how you unite a party. … They didn’t care about giving us any voice whatsoever.”

Before the convention, Democratic leaders including Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had issued calls encouraging all to work together respectfully at the convention.

The Nevada State Democratic Party will send 43 delegates to the national convention.

Clinton received seven of the 12 national delegate slots up for grabs at the state convention after narrowly turning out more supporters than the Sanders camp. Out of nearly 3,400 qualified state-level delegates who showed up, Clinton had 33 more than Sanders. Clinton had 1,695 delegates seated at the state convention. Sanders had 1,662.

Clinton went into the state convention with a delegate lead in Nevada after winning the Feb. 20 caucuses, but Sanders supporters outnumbered Clinton’s backers at the April county conventions, where results are not tied to any national delegates.

After the convention, Clinton has a 20-15 delegate advantage over Sanders. She is also expected to win a majority of Nevada’s eight unpledged superdelegates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1

Sanders supporters posted videos on YouTube and Facebook regarding events at the convention.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.