In a sign of ongoing unrest within the Democratic Party on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, supporters of Bernie Sanders repeatedly interrupted speakers at a breakfast for California delegates on Monday, chanting the Vermont senator’s name and booing mentions of Hillary Clinton.
California state Controller Betty Yee and Secretary of State Alex Padilla were forced to raise their voices over chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was heckled.
The outbursts continued for nearly two hours, a prelude to what could become a raucous opening night of the convention. The Clinton campaign has made “unity” the theme of the night.
Sanders, who has endorsed Clinton, is scheduled to speak, while many of his supporters are planning to raise protests on the convention floor.
Clinton beat Sanders by a wide margin in California, but he attracted thousands of fervent supporters to dozens of his rallies in the state in May and June, and he has 221 delegates from California here. Their animosity for Clinton and the Democratic National Committee was heightened by Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine, a moderate Democrat, as her running mate, and by leaked emails showing DNC officials working to undermine Sanders during the primary campaign.
Sanders supporters yelled “Count our votes!” and “Do your job!” when Padilla took to the lectern, accusing Padilla, a Clinton backer, of failing to count provisional ballots they said could have helped Sanders.
“Padilla was campaigning for Hillary the whole way,” said Chuck Stevens, a Sanders supporter from San Jose who yelled during the breakfast.
Padilla refuted the claim.
Amid chants, which at times drowned out the soft-spoken Padilla, the state’s top election official conceded that Sanders did a “tremendous amount of good for our party and for our nation and for the primary process” by bringing in more activists.
“He brought passion and energy and helped push for the most progressive party platform we have ever adopted,” Padilla said.
“I applaud the work for Sen. Sanders and I thank him for it and for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as our ticket,” he continued, to loud boos.
After his speech, Padilla said the Sanders supporters at the breakfast, and the ones who stopped him in the hallway at the downtown Marriott, should be lauded for their passion. But he said the best use of their energy is to channel it into more turnout, because the choice is “absolutely clear.”
“I don’t think the politics behind any of the Bernie Sanders supporters is supportive of Trump,” he said. “That’s certainly not the direction to lead the country.”
The outbursts frustrated Clinton supporters, who tried unsuccessfully to quiet their rivals.
“This is not a rally!” Barbara Perkins, a Clinton delegate from Los Angeles, told a Sanders supporter at the table behind her, turning from her breakfast to engage her.
After the breakfast, Pelosi dismissed the unrest as a short-term distraction, adding that “unanimity ... is an impossibility for any party.”
“This is interesting and it’s entertaining even to a certain extent,” she said. “And it might be grist for your mill to write something, but what’s important is the competing visions between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for president of the United States. We believe she has a vision that is about the American people and what difference it makes in their lives starting with them.”